Setting off speculation about a possible amendment to the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said at an all-party meeting on Tuesday that “no law is foolproof and is subject to amendments for better and effective implementation”. The law had come under attack from the Opposition and people for some of its stringent provisions, such as making all adults of a family culpable if any member is found drinking, possessing or selling liquor from the premises they occupy.
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While JD(U)’s alliance partner RJD did not give any suggestion for amendment despite its initial objections to the Act, another ally Congress suggested heavy penalty for offenders. The main opposition party, BJP, suggested removal of the all-adult clause and community fine. Former CM and HAM (S) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi advised that the government make exceptions to allow certain caste groups to drink in limited quantities.
After hearing all points, Nitish said: “Laws of the land have seen several amendments as no law can be foolproof. We want full support from all parties on prohibition, but are open to suggestions. We intend social transformation and do not want to trouble people”. Sources said the government has been processing hundreds of suggestions and may bring amendments to the Act in the upcoming winter session. Most objections to the law pertain to disproportionate penal provisions and the all-adult clause.
State BJP president Mangal Pandey, who attended the all-party meet with Leader of the Opposition in Assembly Prem Kumar, said: “We told the CM that we are with the government on prohibition, but registered our protest against clauses of community fine, culpability of all adults of a family and confiscation of property. How can one’s property be confiscated for drinking? Where will other family members who are innocent go?” The state BJP president drew the state government’s attention to imprisonment of over 9,000 people under the liquor law.
Bihar Congress president and education minister Ashok Kumar Choudhary said: “We said that there should be provision for heavy fine for drinking and related offences. Perpetual offenders should get jail term with fine.”
Former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi said: “The government should think about some caste groups who have been drinking traditionally. It should consider allowing drinking in limited quantities.”