In several state of India there is prohibition in the use of alcohol. Gujarat, Mizoram, Nagaland, etc, are few examples of the same. Article 47 of the constitution of India provide the states with the power to bring about prohibition of consumption of several intoxicating drinks or drugs which are injurious to health. However the exception to this provision is the drugs or intoxicating drinks which are used for medicinal purposes.
Introduction of Liquor ban in Bihar
On 1 April 2016, the Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar introduced Alcohol Prohibition Law. The liquor ban was implemented through the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar officially declared in a press conference that from 1 April 2016 onwards there will be complete ban on all kinds of liquor in the state of Bihar. Further it was declared that any sale of alcohol in hotels, clubs or any other place will be considered illegal. A penalty of 5 years to 10 years can be imposed in case of any violation.
Patna High Court on 30th September 2016 declared that the liquor ban was illegal and unconstitutional. As a result the government of Bihar has drafted a new law to keep from withdrawing the ban. The new law provides for a minimum punishment of 10 years jail which may be extended to life imprisonment beside a minimum fine of 1 lakh could be imposed which may be extended to 10 lakh for those persons who are indulge in unlawful export, import, manufacture, sale, transport and possession of any intoxicant or liquor. Further on 3 October 2016, the government of Bihar approached the Supreme Court of India challenging the decision of High Court.
The telegraph reported on 25th October 2016, that the government of Bihar has decided to renew the liquor licences of canteens in military and air force stations in for the year 2016-2017 in the interest of soldiers. To show their support to ban of alcohol by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, more than 3 crore people of Bihar from all walks of life and political parties joined hands to form a massive human chain along 12,760 km of roads on 21 January 2017.
The new version of Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act which was introduced on 2 October 2016 contained more strict measures. The cases related to liquor ban were to be decided only by the special courts constituted under Bihar Special Courts Act. The new act also empowered the authorities to confiscate such properties where liquor is either consumed or stored.
The Supreme Court of India stayed the order of Patna High Court quashing Bihar’s liquor ban. The Supreme Court further stays all the proceedings related to liquor ban in Patna High Court.
Amendments in the Prohibition Bill
In the month of July, 2018, the government of Bihar introduced certain amendments to the liquor laws. According to the amended law the person caught for the first time drinking liquor in Bihar has to pay a fine of Rs. 50,000 and after paying such fine he can go free. There is no mandatory imprisonment for such first time offenders. Earlier, under Bihar liquor law the first offence was non-bailable.
The provision for seizing property i.e., land, house, etc, or vehicle where liquor is either consumed or stored has been removed in the new law. Similarly, the provision for arrest of all members of family if someone in the family is found consuming alcohol at home has also been removed in the new liquor law. Provision imposing collective fine in case of recovery of huge quantity of liquor from any particular area has been done away with.
Prohibition of the consumption of alcohol has lowered the rates of drinking among men. There has been remarkable decrease in the rates of incidence of violence against women. The number of murders and gang robberies in 2016 has shown a decrease of 20 % in comparison to the year 2015. The rates show a decrease of 13% in the number of riots and 10% reduction in traffic accidents.
Further, the effect of liquor ban can also be witnessed in economic front. The amount of income spent on household shows a significant rise. An increase of 10% in milk sale, 30% increase in vehicle and 50% increase in electronic appliances are few evidences of the same. The growth rate of villages also shows that the prohibition has positively impacted the society. There has been a significant rise in brick houses in rural areas of Bihar taking place of huts made of mud.
The reports from other states which have implemented liquor ban also shows decrease in the number of incidences of violence against women.
Controversy related to Liquor Ban
On one hand it is claimed that the rates of crime shown a remarkable decline. But it is evident that all alcohol related problems have not vanished. Still there are various instances of illegal supply of alcohol products in the streets of Bihar. The prohibition law has been attacked by various people and critics. According to them even after several amendments the law failed to provide the desired result. They claim that instead of reducing the rates of crime the liquor ban has actually increased crime. Bihar police crime data prove their claim reasonable as the data shows that cognizable crime rose by 13% during the period of October 2016 to April 2017.As a result of this the government of Bihar has amended the Prohibition Bill and has bring down its stringent provisions.
Critics of this law claimed that the prohibition on alcohol was an erroneous decision because the government didn’t conducted sufficient research. They overlooked the fact of availability of substitutes markets popularly known as black market. In order to cover up their faults, they resort on several amendments of this policy and manipulation to bring a positive transformation so that they can portrait a favourable picture of prohibition.
After 3 years of liquor ban the most burning question related to alcohol prohibition is whether liquor ban emerged as a step towards transforming Bihar as it was claimed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar or not?
Even after facing heavy criticism the Bihar Excise Act 2016 shows the positive effects of alcohol ban in the state of Bihar. The data which was used to criticize the liquor ban in Bihar is mainly based on the data collected from specific areas like Patna and its near-by areas. Therefore, it will be wrong to use the same to judge the scenario of the entire Bihar. Moreover, the rate of crime after the prohibition of alcohol is comparatively lower. So, it can be said that the arguments against alcohol ban are not true.
But it is true that prohibition alone is not sufficient to curb down all alcohol related problems and turn the picture overnight. Because dealing with such problems require laws along with strong participation of general public. So, if we need to bring a change we along with government need to work for it.