Updated: January 13, 2022 3:09:06 am
Days after Chief Justice of India N V Ramana cited the 2016 Bihar prohibition law as an example of “lack of foresight” in drafting legislation that leads to clogging of courts with bail petitions, Bihar Minister and senior JD(U) leader Vijay Kumar Choudhary on Wednesday said judiciary, legislature and executive “should respect their limits as all three had been equally important” for proper functioning of democracy.
Asked how the state government took the CJI’s remarks, made at an event in Vijayawada on December 26, Choudhary told The Indian Express: “The CJI has not attacked the spirit of the Bihar liquor law. The prohibition law has been in consonance with the Directive Principles of State Policy. While the CJI talked about clogging of courts, he also talked about lack of number of judges.”
He said special courts were being set up to deal with pending cases under the prohibition law.
On the apex court on Tuesday dismissing the Bihar government’s set of appeals, challenging grant of regular and anticipatory bails by Patna High Court, the state Education Minister said it is a matter under the court’s domain.
“As for the rejection of our recent petitions challenging granting of bails, we have nothing to say as it comes under domain of a court. It is part of procedure…. We are talking in terms of larger debate and hold that judiciary, legislative and executive should respect their limits as all the three had been equally important for functioning of a democracy,” he said.
Opposition RJD national spokesperson Subodh Mehta said changes should be brought in to cut down the number of cases.
The pending bail pleas
Police records show that 3,48,170 cases have been lodged and 4,01,855 arrests made under the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act until October 2021. Around 20,000 bail applications relating to these cases are pending for disposal in Patna High Court and lower courts. This despite Patna High Court disposing of 19,842 bail pleas – anticipatory and regular – in such cases between January 2020 and November 2021.
“The state government must take corrective measures. Why should drinkers be treated as criminals? They can only be fined and sent to de-addiction centres if needed. Stringent action should be taken against only traders, distributors and manufacturers of liquor. This alone will cut down cases under the prohibition law.”
Mehta said there had also been socio-ecomic implications of the arrests. “Almost 85-90 per cent of those arrested are from weaker sections of society. They are kept with hardcore criminals in crowded jails. Can they come back as reformed persons,” asked the RJD leader, who endorsed the CJI’s observations on “lack of foresight” in drafting of the liquor law.