The Bihar “liquor ban” issue has reached the doors of the Supreme Court of India. The “Grand Alliance” coalition government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar moved the Apex Court against an order of the Patna High Court striking down a liquor prohibition law of the state government as “unconstitutional”. The matter is likely to be heard on October 7.
On October 2, the Birth Day of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, the state government launched a new policy on liquor with harsher provisions. Just a day after that it moved the Supreme Court. The Bihar Chief Minister called the new law Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016, as the “real tribute to the Father of the Nation,” as the state is preparing itself to celebrate the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha against British rule.
Under the new law, the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol including the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as well as the country liquor would continue. The new law provides for the arrest of any adult from whom illicit liquor or contraband is recovered. But even this new law has reportedly been challenged in the Patna High Court by a former professor of the Patna University. But now when the state government has approached the Apex Court, the High Court may not take a decision on this new challenge.
The Patna High Court had on September 30 quashed the state government’s April 5 notification on prohibition, holding it as “ultra vires” the Constitution of India.
Even after coming out with the new law on October 2, the state government has taken abundant precaution before approaching the Supreme Court so that any new challenge may not be entertained by the state high court.
The new law was issued after a special cabinet meeting on October 2 in which chief minister Nitish Kumar and his other cabinet colleagues took a “pledge” to continue with prohibition in the state as it was “ushering a positive social change”.
Nitish Kumar had earlier stated that the apprehended “revenue loss” would not matter much as the social change that would take place would compensate for the same. However, it is yet to be seen what would the Apex Court do and if it continues with the order of the High Court, then “three cheers” may come back in Bihar. However, if there is a stay on the high court order till the disposal of the petition it would be no cheers in the state. People may drink at their own risk of getting arrested.