The Bihar Government on Tuesday decided to renew liquor licences of canteens in cantonment areas, military and air force stations for 2016-2017 in the "interest of soldiers", The Telegraph reported on 25 October.
Impositions such as mandatory holograms on liquor bottles (for sale in the canteen), and vehicles used for the transport of liquor to be strictly fitted with digital locks and GPS, have also been relaxed on the request of defence establishments, on the condition that it is consumed within the premises.
This comes after the historic move by the Nitish Kumar government in imposing a complete ban on sale of any kind of liquor in Bihar, making it the fourth dry state of the country after Nagaland, Manipur and Gujarat, in April, through a notification, reports IANS.
"Liquor will not be sold in any bar, pub or hotel from now onwards,” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told reporters in Patna, adding, "We are placing a complete ban on its sale in the state. Women and kids have created an environment in favour of this ban."
The Bihar legislative assembly then formally passed the Bihar Excise and Prohibition Bill with voice vote amidst an opposition boycott. It was approved by Governor Ram Nath Kovind on 7 September. The law was touted as "draconian" by opposing parties, with stringent provisions such as arrest of all adult members of a family if liquor was found stored in any household.
However, ruling that section 19(4) of the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016 was "ultra vires and unenforceable", the Patna High Court had quashed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's pet initiative as "unreasonable and draconian" which "cannot be justified in a civilised society".
Senior advocate Ramesh Gupta IANS: "As the notification has been struck down by the court, all the cases against persons will go now." As many as 13,839 people were arrested for violating the liquor law between April and August, 2016.
Although even before the HC order came, the Bihar government had announced that it would enforce a new stringent law from 2 October, only to stay adamant on it after the order. The government had drafted a new law to keep from withdrawing the ban. "A special state cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister on Sunday formally approved the implementation of the new act in the state," an official in CM's Office said. According to the state's Additional Advocate General, Lalit Kishore, the high court order did not impact the new act since it was passed by both houses of the Bihar legislature and formally approved by Governor Ram Nath Kovind, whereas the court order was related to an old rule.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and other members of his Cabinet took a pledge that the government would continue with prohibition which is "ushering positive social change" in the state.
As per the new liquor law, those found indulging in unlawful import, export, transport, manufacture, possession, sale, intoxicant or liquor could attract a minimum 10 years of jail term which may extend to imprisonment for life besides a minimum fine of Rs 1 lakh which may extend to Rs 10 lakh, says a report by PTI.
Later, on 7 October the Supreme Court stayed the Patna High Court order quashing the ban and directed the hearing of the matter after 10 weeks.
However, the government continues its arrests and around 1,000 cartons of India made foreign liquor (IMFL) were seized by excise department officials and six persons were arrested from a container truck in Fatuha Industrial Area of Patna district on 22 October, marking it one of the biggest seizures since the new Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016 was enforced on 2 October.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Oct 26, 2016 19:08:19 IST