Patna: In a state where liquor is completely banned, the enforcement agencies have seized more than 45.37 lakh litres of liquor in Bihar during 2021. Among the seizure, the quantity of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) is 32.14 lakh and country made liquor is 15.62 lakh.
The Bihar Police has seized 5.21 lakh litres of liquor from Vaishali district followed by Patna where state authorities have seized 3.97 lakh litres.
Muzaffarpur occupies the third position where the police department had seized 2.87 lakh litres, 2.71 lakh litres in Aurangabad and 2.61 lakh litres in Madhubani district.
These figures are an indication of liquor use in Bihar and how it is easily available despite the ban.
Following a series of deaths due to spurious liquor in October and November 2021, the Bihar government had taken stringent action against the violators but the big fish are still beyond the reach of the enforcement agencies. As a result, the smuggling of liquor, especially IMFL, still continues in Bihar from other states.
As per the official spokesperson of Bihar Police, 66,258 FIRs have been registered under the Liquor Prohibition Act and 82,903 offenders have been arrested in the state.
Opposition parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) have said that majority of the offenders booked under the Liquor Prohibition Act are those who consume liquor.
"The actual traders or smugglers who have a bigger role in the offence are beyond the reach of Bihar Police," said RJD spokesperson Mritunjay Tiwari.
Former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has also said that only poor people have been arrested in Bihar and not a single IAS, IPS, doctors, engineers, big businessman, contractors, among others have been nabbed.
Poor people are arrested as they roam on the streets after getting drunk, he added.
The opposition leaders also blamed that the execution of liquor prohibition is lacking in the state as police personnel and officials are involved in it.
A Bihar Police spokesperson said: "Thirty police personnel and officials were terminated on the charge of liquor violations or having links with the liquor mafia in the state. Besides, 17 SHOs were suspended from their posts. The police department has registered FIRs against 45 policemen and departmental inquiries have been initiated against 134 police personnel and officials."
One of the major reasons for liquor violation in the state is the slow conviction rates. After the liquor prohibition law was imposed in in April 2016, the Patna High Court had formed special courts in every district for hearing of cases that came under the law. As a result, a huge burden comes on the courts and its hearing gets delayed.
As per Bihar Police data, 66,258 FIRs have been registered under the Liquor Prohibition Act and 82,903 offenders were arrested, but 310 were convicted.
This issue was rightly pointed out by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana on December 27 when he said that decisions like liquor ban by the Bihar government in 2016 put huge burden on the courts. It was a short-sighted decision of the Bihar government, he added.
"There are three lakh cases pending in the courts. People are waiting for justice since a long time and now the excessive cases related to liquor violations put additional burden on courts," Ramana said.
Ramana pointed out that every policy needs to be addressed with futuristic planning, its evaluation and constitutionality before its implementation on ground. With the liquor ban decision by the Nitish Kumar government in 2016, a large number of cases are pending in the courts.
Even hearing for bail in simple cases is taking one-year time in the courts.
"The applications pertaining to bail in Liquor Prohibition Act are submitted in large numbers in the HC. Due to short-sighted policies implemented by different governments, it is affecting the work of courts in the country. Every law needs to be discussed thoroughly and with solid points before implementation," he said.