After Supreme Court Rap, Bihar Says Stringent Liquor Law To Be Changed

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Stringent Bihar liquor law would be changed, the state government Tuesday told the Supreme Court, which again came down heavily on it for framing such a legislation that has led to thousands languishing in jail and clogging of the judicial system.

The top court said it is a matter of concern and remarked that the Bihar government has brought the law without any legislative impact study and 16 Patna High Court judges are engaged in dealing with the bail applications.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh, dealing with a batch of bail applications of the accused booked under the stringent law sought the record to be placed before it on what impact study the state government has made.

“Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Bihar government, submits that an amendment is to be brought to make the law more efficacious and to deal with its fallout. We would like to know what is the legislative impact study undertaken before implementing the Bihar prohibition law,” the bench said.

The prohibition law had come into force in Bihar in 2016 under which manufacture, sale and consumption was banned in the entire state. The law provides for jail terms along with fines for serious offences, besides confiscation of property of the accused. The law was amended in 2018 under which some provisions were diluted.

At the outset, the bench said it is a matter of concern that 16 judges of the Patna High Court are sitting on bail matters.

“This law is creating crowding. Rectify it or we would say that release everybody on bail till rectification is done. You have passed the law without any legislative impact study. You have not studied what infrastructure will be required in dealing with the cases arising out of the law. Every legislation is bound to create litigation,” the bench observed.

It said the state government has made the offence under the law non-bailable which is further creating problems as the matter is reaching High Courts and the Supreme Court.

“Burden is on you (Bihar government) to correct the course,” the bench said.

Kumar said the state government has decided to amend the legislation keeping in view the recent observations of the court and to make it more efficacious.

“The amendment will be brought in the upcoming assembly session,” he said, adding that all relevant concerns will be taken care of.

The bench said liquor problem is a social issue and every state has the right to frame law to deal with it but there has to be some study on how much litigation it is likely to generate, what kind of infrastructure will be needed and what number of judges will be needed.

“A judicial impact study has to be conducted every time a legislation is being brought. The legislature needs to analyse the impact of the law as to how much litigation will increase. Look at the case of Negotiable Instrument Act,” the bench said, adding that the state government has failed to assess the socio-economic impact of the law on the people.

Justice Sundresh pointed out that most of the people being arrested under the law are from the lower strata and if the government arrests, say father, then his son will get into this and later his wife.

The bench said the state has to look at all aspects before bringing these kinds of laws.

It listed the matter for further hearing in the first week of May.

On February 24, the top court had pointed out that almost every bench of the apex court has been dealing with the cases arising out of Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act and had sought to know whether any legislative impact study was conducted.

It had said that the State government is expected to do some prior assessment before any such legislation was to be brought in on the impact it would have on courts, jails, police personnel and the society.

Earlier, a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana also raised concerns over the cases arising out of the law clogging the judicial system.

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