Patna High Court on Friday struck down Bihar goverment’s prohibition law, terming it “illegal”.
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 amidst boycott by Opposition over the state government’s rejection of their proposals.
On the provision of arrest of family members in the event of liqour bottle being found at their house, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had earlier said that only adult members will be penalised on the premise that somebody in the household must be knowing as to who has brought the liquor.
The Bihar government had also earlier banned the sale of toddy, which is considered the poor man’s beer and regarded as a natural juice.
This move was opposed by the people, including by ally RJD’s chief Lalu Prasad as well as the opposition BJP and its allies.
According to RJD leaders, Lalu was not in favour of banning toddy. Lalu Prasad as Chief Minister in the early ’90s had declared toddy tax-free in Bihar to help the people engaged in the business, particularly the ‘Pasi’ caste Dalits.
In view of increasing pressure from Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar decided to lift the ban on the sale and consumption of toddy, something which points out the huge role which the JD(U)’s alliance with RJD plays when the Bihar government is forming policies.
After imposing prohibition, commercial tax revenue in the state also witnessed a sharp dip. According to India Today, the state government’s commercial tax revenue went down from Rs 3,666 crore in the first quarter of the last fiscal year to Rs 2,372 crore in the same period this year.
The excise revenue also decreased from Rs 897 crore in the same period last year to Rs 42 crore this year.
In the last fiscal year, the state government was earning around Rs 5000 crore only from the sale of liquor in the state.
Defending prohibition in Bihar, Nitish Kumar had also said that crimes like rape, murder, dacoity, road accidents, theft and extortion had come down since April this year, even though there has been a sharp rise in cases registered under the excise law.
With inputs from agencies
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