'Draconian' clauses to go

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

Patna: Punishment for "knowledge of possession of intoxicant and failure to inform excise and police officials" is among the prohibition law provisions that are set to go.

The Telegraph has learnt that other Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, provisions that the cabinet-approved amendment proposes to delete include imposition of collective fines, enhanced punishment for repeat offenders, expelling of notorious or habitual offenders, and penalty for passing off country liquor as India made foreign liquor (IMFL).

The government will table the amendment bill in the legislature during the monsoon session that starts on Friday.

"The amendment bill proposes to strike down the entire Section 38 of the present law. It includes eight to 10 years' imprisonment and fine of up to Rs 10 lakh, which if defaulted will add another one year's prison term," said a highly placed government source.

Section 38(1) is related to possession of liquor and Section 38(2) is related to "knowledge of possession".

"The entire Section 38 is being deleted mainly because of punishment provisioned for having 'any knowledge about possession or storage' and not informing the government about it and the fact that it makes the entire family liable for the violation. It would be very difficult for the prosecution in such cases to prove the violations, and also the provisions are liable to be misused," the government source said.

On the chopping block is also Section 66 of the Act, which empowers the district magistrate or collector to expel notorious or habitual offenders from the district for a maximum period of six months. The section includes clauses that could be used to make such a person notify his movements to the authorities.

Section 53, which says a person will be given twice the punishment meted out to him in previous conviction, will also be removed, as will Section 35, which stipulates punishment up to life in prison and fine up to Rs 10 lakh for passing off country liquor as IMFL.

The prohibition law's provision under Section 64 empowering district collectors to impose collective fines on villages, towns, localities, groups of people or community for repeated violations of the provisions of the Act, or if they are habitually prone to commit an offence under the Act, will also be removed by the amendment.


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