New Delhi: In a relief to the Nitish Kumar government, Supreme Court on Friday stayed the operation of Patna High Court judgement quashing the state's law banning sale and consumption of all types of liquor, saying liquor and fundamental rights "do not go together".
A bench of justices Dipak Misra and UU lalit also issued notices to all the respondents including some liquor manufacturers, on whose plea the high court had held as illegal and unconstitutional Bihar government's prohibition law and posted the matter for hearing after eight weeks.
"Liquor and fundamental rights do not go together," was how the apex court observed before passing the interim order on the appeal against the high court's verdict. "As an interim measure, it is directed that there shall be stay of operation of the judgement and order passed by the division bench of the Patna high court," the bench said.
Bihar government has challenged the high court verdict of 30 September which had quashed the notification banning consumption and sale of liquor in the state. However, after the law was set aside, the Grand Secular Alliance government came out with a new law banning sale and consumption of liquor, which was notified on the Gandhi Jayanti day on 2 October.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, assisted by advocates Gopal Singh and Keshav Mohan, told the bench on behalf of the state government that after high court's order, Bihar has notified a new law on 2 October which repealed the old legislation. "The new law is not under challenge. The high court judgement was in relation to the old law," he said.
Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for one of the liquor manufacturers, said "this judgement (which is under challenge) is not operational. It is supplanted by a new law. Now, there is nothing to be stayed." He was opposing the appeal of the state government by submitting that a new law has been notified on 2 October.
There were a battery of senior lawyers, including CS Vaidyanathan, Rajeev Dhawan and Balbir Singh, who appeared to oppose the Bihar government's appeal raising the issue of fundamental right of equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.