New Prohibition Law Opposed by Nitish Kumar's Allies, BJP

Chief Minister talking to reporters at Bihar Assembly in Patna on Friday.

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Patna: Determined to make drinking, selling, or keeping alcohol at home a more serious crime than rape or murder in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday circulated his new Excise Amendment Bill that contains rules that are being considered 'too draconian' for even an Islamic nation.

Sparking protest from both within the coalition and the opposition parties, the new rules allow some serious actions, including arrest and imprisonment of all adult members of the family living under the same roof, in the event of the discovery of alcoholic beverage from a home.

Talking to the media on the opening day of the short monsoon session of the Bihar Assembly, the Chief Minister said his decision was final and was not going back to make the law less stringent.

"I have already cleared the draft of the new Excise Amendment Bill and I am confident it would be approved in the Assembly," the Janata Dal – U President said.

Calling the law 'draconian' in nature, former Deputy Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushil Kumar Modi said that only in the eyes of a leader like Nitish Kumar, keeping a bottle of alcohol was a more serious crime than rape or murder.

"By this token, the entire family of a rapist or a murderer should also be arrested and sent to prison for life," he said.

Ironically, Kumar's own Excise Minister Abdul Zalil Mastan is also opposed to the new provisions in the bill saying it defied common sense and existing laws. He said that he would oppose it and hopefully persuade the Chief Minister to relent on this issue.

Former Chief Minister of Bihar and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Rabri Devi also expressed her shock with the new law demanding from Nitish Kumar to explain how it made sense to arrest the entire family if one person in the family was struggling with alcoholism.

Besides arresting other family members in the house, the 44-page draft also includes harsh punishment to advertisers who market their products in print or digital media including films and social media.

Under the new law, advertisers would be jailed for five years or face fine of Rs. 10 lakh or both depending on the seriousness of the advertisement. If the liquor ads or sale of liquor involves a minor or a woman, the punishment would be life sentence in prison.


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