The Bihar government on Sunday notified its new liquor law — Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 — that replaces Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the new law came into force on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the old law, on which the court had passed its decision two days ago, has ceased to exist. The CM, however, said the government would move Supreme Court against the Patna High Court order that had shot down the main section of the old law that had banned the consumption, storage and sale of liquor.
In a setback to the government, the Patna High Court had on Friday struck down a government notification banning the consumption, storage and sale of all types of liquor in the state. The HC held that the “penal provisions were unreasonable and draconian and cannot be justified in a civilised society”.
At a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, the chief minister took the decision to enforce the new liquor law with immediate effect. Speaking to reporters, he said: “There should be no confusion over imposition of total prohibition in Bihar. Earlier, we had amended the form of 1915 Act but now we have a devoted law on prohibition.” Asked about the implications of the Patna HC judgment, the CM said: “The court talked about a law that did not exist. Now, we have a new law.” Though he did not comment on the court order, he said: “Legislation is the right of the legislature.” Asked about the new Act having several similar provisions, which were questioned by the court, the CM said the government would move Supreme Court.
The CM chose to attack the Opposition for lauding the HC verdict on the liquor law. “The Opposition that had supported the law in April stood exposed now.” BJP leader Sushil Modi and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, however, said though they supported prohibition, they were against the “draconian law”. Modi said: “The best option for the government would have been to rework its liquor law post the HC judgment. When the court found the old law draconian, the new law contains more stringent and unreasonable provisions. We support the liquor law but not the undue harassment of people with a Tughlaqi law”.
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