PATNA -- The Nitish Kumar government circulated Excise Amendment Bill in the Bihar Assembly on Friday, outlining more stringent measures to enforce the law of prohibition. Proposed measures include putting behind bars all adult members of a family in case liquor is found in their house.
The Bill was circulated among members on the opening day of the five-day monsoon session for their comments.
The draft has already been cleared by the state Cabinet and the government aims at getting it approved by the Assembly during the current session.
The key points in the bill are:
- If liquor or any other intoxicant is found, consumed, manufactured or sold from a house, all the members above 18 years of age living there can be punished. The punishment can include being put behind bars.
- Anyone caught advertising any alcoholic product or any other intoxicant from any public medium, including film or television, or from any social platform, either directly or obliquely can face a jail term of five years or a ₹10 lakh penalty, or both.
- Anyone engaging a minor or a woman for the sale, transportation and distribution of an intoxicant can face a life term in prison.
- Excise officials who harass anyone under false pretexts of search under prohibition, can face a three-year jail term and a penalty of ₹1 lakh, or both.
And for the reinforcing authorities:
- If a collector, excise official or police find that any group or community of any village, a city or any area within such village or city habitually violates prohibition laws or becomes a hurdle in its implementation, they can face a collective penalty.
Kumar has made only one exception to the rule, keeping toddy out of the liquor category mentioned in the bill.
Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi told PTI, "Nitish is so drunk with power that he thinks nobody can bend him, but the BJP, LJP supremo Ramvilas Paswan, Hindustani Awam Party Morcha president Jitan Ram Manjhi and RJD chief Lalu Prasad have applied enough pressure on the Chief Minister to force him to make U-turn on toddy ban."
Modi also claimed that the Chief Minister retreated because he feared that the Rashtriya Janata Dal might withdraw its support to the ruling alliance if he persisted with his stand on toddy, affecting the livelihood of a section of the Dalit community.
"What if someone throws an empty liquor bottle in the bungalow of the RJD supremo, then will he, with other family members including former chief minister Rabri Devi and two minister sons, be arrested and put behind bars?" Modi said. "Is it fair to punish wife and aged parents, if an adult member commits crime like keeping a liquor bottle in the household? Does not the stringent law lead Bihar to ancient times?"
But Nitish Kumar has maintained that the Bill has been brought to make the prohibition law more effective.
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