Bihar Liquor Ban Strike Down by HC

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Patna high court struck down Bihar Government’s ‘The Bihar Prohibition and Excise Bill 2016’.

A division bench of the court comprising Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari and Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh quashed the 5 April notification of the state government to stop consumption and sale of alcohol in the state.

The 5 April notification is ultra vires to the Constitution, hence not enforceable, the court said in its verdict.

The same bench had on 20 May reserved its order on a batch of writ petitions filed by Liquor Trade Association and many individuals challenging the liquor law in Bihar brought by Nitish Kumar government with stringent penal provisions.

The stringent Bihar Excise and Prohibition Bill, 2016 was passed on 1 August in the state Assembly by voice vote.

Timeline:

On November 26, 2015, Nitish Kumar announced complete liquor ban in Bihar from April 1, 2016.

On March 31, 2016, the Bihar Assembly unanimously passed the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Bill 2016. The 1915 liquor bill was amended to add stricter provisions. The bill ensured a ban on country-made liquor in the state from April 1.

Just four days after prohibition on country-made liquor, the Bihar government extended it’s ban on IMFL brands ensuring a blanket ban on liquor in all towns and cities.

Under pressure from ally RJD, Bihar government on July 31 announced that ban on sale of toddy will be lifted.

On August 1, Bihar government made amendments to the four-months old bill and added stricter provisions. The revised bill included provisions like punishment for all family members and making the offenses non-bailable.

On August 17, a hooch tragedy in the Gopalganj area of the state claimed 18 lives. The deaths happened after people consumed spurious country-made liquor which was being sold illegally.

Within six months of the prohibition Bill coming into force, the Patna High Court on 30 Sept 2016 struck down Bihar government’s decision.

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