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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Hooch deaths: Punjab proposes death penalty for those found guilty

Highly placed sources told The Indian Express that the Excise and Taxation Department has moved a proposal to this effect for amendment in Section 61 of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, which deals with offences and penalties, and add new clauses.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh | Updated: August 26, 2020 9:30:23 am
Will challenge Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill in court: Punjab CM“Riding roughshod over the farmers' concerns, the central government, of which the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is a constituent, has imposed a central law on a state subject, thus eroding the federal structure of the country. We will challenge it in court,” Amarinder said in a statement.

Facing flak over the the recent hooch tragedy which claimed 123 lives, the Punjab government is mulling death penalty for manufacturers and suppliers of spurious liquor in case anyone dies after consuming such liquor.

Highly placed sources told The Indian Express that the Excise and Taxation Department has moved a proposal to this effect for amendment in Section 61 of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, which deals with offences and penalties, and add new clauses.

As per the proposal, if anyone suffers permanent disability due to consumption of spurious liquor, the accused should be given life imprisonment.

Excise and Taxation Department portfolio is with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

The section 61 of Punjab Excise Act, 1914 mandates upto three years in jail and Rs 10 lakh in fine for unlawful import, export, transport, manufacture and possession of any intoxicant. As per the proposal, it was learnt, the department has recommended to enhance the punishment from three years to five years and fine from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.

A government functionary said the department has already moved a proposal. The proposal will be placed before the Cabinet for approval and subsequently presented in the Vidhan Sabha.

Punjab Police earlier this month added Section 302 (murder) of IPC in cases against all the kingpins in the hooch tragedy where several had died in Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Gurdaspur after consuming spurious liquor.

In an office order earlier this month, Punjab Excise Commissioner directed field staff that vehicles used for transporation of Ethyl Neutral Alcohol (ENA), Ethanol, Specially Denatured Spirit (SDS), Denatured Spirits (DNS), and Rectified Spirit (RS) must be Global Positioining System (GPS) enabled with effect from September 5 and that co-ordinates of the vehicle be preserved for a period of not less than 15 days from the date of completion of delivery of a consignment.

The order also noted that tankers shall be sealed by the unit before dispatch. The seal should be broken only by the recipient. The order also said that vehicle shall in no case, except for refuelling, or food for driver, stop enroute its destination within Punjab.

In case of vehicle breakdown, the office order read, the manufacturing unit would be dutybound to inform the Excise Officer in charge of the unit within 15 minutes.

“In case the vehicle stops enroute (within the jurisdiction of the State of Punjab) for reasons others than breakdown as above, it will be presumed that the vehicle has been stopped for pilferage. The distillery and the transporter shall be jointly and severely liable for civil and / or criminal actions as per provisions of the law/rules,” read the order.

In another office order on Monday (August 24), the Punjab Excise Commissioner noted that due to outbreak of Covid 19, there was huge demand for the supply of hand sanitizers and the manufacturers were demanding ENA, RS, SDS for manufacturing the same.

The order while pointing out the need to regulate the transport of such material to manufacturing units directed that the distilleries “shall use only denaturants, which have been permitted under relevant laws. The distilleries shall ensure that the material being dispatched for hand sanitizer manufacturing shall be blue in color.”

The order also noted that “the tankers carrying material should carry warning ‘POISON – NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION’ on both sides of the tanker” and the driver carrying such material should also sensitized that the material was not fit for human consumption.

Punjab Excise Commissioner had in another order on August 20 issued a dedicated complaint number 9875961126 for lodging excise related complaints and directed the field staff directing them to give it a wide publicity and ensure that banners giving the complaint number were put up in all the vends in the state.

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