PATNA: People caught the first time drinking liquor in
Bihar will be allowed to go free after payment of a Rs 50,000 fine, or will spend three months in jail, according to a Bihar government proposal to amend the state’s
prohibition law. The proposal was cleared by the state cabinet on Wednesday.

The state cabinet approved on Wednesday the government’s proposal to table an amendment bill in the state assembly during the monsoon session (begins July 20) to make changes to the existing Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016.

Bihar advocate general Lalit Kishore told TOI on Wednesday that a person caught for the first time drinking, or drunk, would be set free on payment of Rs 50,000 as penalty, failing which s/he would face three months in jail. The first liquor offence would also be bailable and non-cognisable. At present, it is a non-bailable offence.

Kishore said the amendments would apply even to pending cases and convictions. “A first-time offender will come out of jail if the person has been in prison for more than three months. Also, those imprisoned for less than three months can also come out either on payment of Rs 50,000 or after being granted bail,” Kishore said.

Talking about other proposals, Kishore said the amendments would also reduce the quantum of punishment. “Second-time and subsequent offenders will be liable to two to five years in jail,” Kishore said.

The present act has provisions for 5 to 10 years’ imprisonment for consumption of liquor and 10 years to life imprisonment for its possession.

Regarding punishment for manufacturing and trading in liquor after the amendments, Kishore said: “The first such offence will invite imprisonment for a minimum period of two years and a minimum of 10 years for second and subsequent offences.”

The present act has a minimum 10-year jail term for manufacture and trade of liquor.

Kishore said the proposed amendments also deal with the owner or occupier of the house where a liquor offence is committed. At present the owner, too, is culpable if a liquor offence is committed in his house.

After the amendments, the occupier or owner of the house will just have to inform the police so that h/she is not held guilty of the crime. “The clause of presumption of liquor offence has been removed. The amended bill stipulates that the government will have to prove that the offence has actually been committed,” Kishore said.

Officials claimed the amendments have been mooted on feedback from legal experts and people. Law department sources also said the state government was waiting for the Supreme Court’s nod before initiating the process of amending the prohibition laws.

According to official sources, more than 1.25 lakh people have been sent to jail and at least 16.2 lakh litres of India-made foreign liquor have been seized in Bihar since the prohibition was enforced in the state on April 5, 2016.

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