Bihar: Administration and Police at loggerheads

With suspension of 11 SHOs in Bihar, the government is facing another controversy in its quest for implementing prohibition
Shibu Kumar Tripathi Delhi

Bihar is going through a major administrative tussle with the police department and the state government at loggerheads. The situation worsened when the Bihar Police Association (BPA) threatened the government with a state-wide agitation in support of the 11 Station House Officers(SHOs) suspended by the police headquarters. The suspensions were handed out for failure to curb liquor manufacture in their respective circles.  The government has taken a firm stand on the entire issue as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made it clear that “nobody is above the law”. He further said that, “action will be initiated against everyone who is found to be negligent in enforcing the liquor ban in the state.”

National President of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and former Chief Minister Lalu Yadav expressed his support. Lalu said that, “new people will be recruited, liquor has been banned, it is their duty they should look after it, arrest them and take them in custody, why will anyone drink this poison?”

Officials in the police department said that they have increased vigil in different parts of the state to shutdown any and all form of manufacture of country liquor. Over 9,500 people have been arrested by the state police since the introduction of the Bihar Excise Amendment Act 2016, in April. Additional Director General (ADG), Law and Order Alok Raj said that, “we have been continuously taking steps to nab the perpetrators, there have been numerous arrests so far and we are seeking help of the intelligence department in raiding such manufacturing units in the state.” On suspension of 11 SHOs he added that, “the orders are binding and there is no question of the police department and the state government being at loggerheads.” 

The state government was already facing criticism from almost every nook and corner after controversial new provisions to the liquor policy were passed in the assembly last month. The new provisions set to be added in the Bihar Excise Amendment Act (2016) will hold the entire family criminally liable for a non bailable offence if a family member is found in possession of alcohol which includes husband, wife and adult children. Meanwhile, if tenants are found consuming or storing alcohol in a building the owner of the building will also face legal proceedings. The bill in its own sense presumes that the family members had prior information about the stock of illegal alcohol in the house and prescribes for a rigorous imprisonment of 10 years. However, the most controversial provision is the power given to the Police and District Collector to search a house on mere suspicion that liquor might be stored in the house. Many are terming it as a violation of the Right to Privacy and the Right to Life given by the Indian constitution to every individual.

The parent legislation was earlier passed in the assembly on April 1, initially banning country made liquor, it was then upgraded to an umbrella ban bringing foreign liquor in its ambit as well, making Bihar the fourth Indian state to declare itself a dry state. The government has however kept toddy out of the scope of prohibition. The decision to introduce prohibition came as part of Nitish Kumar’s 2015 poll promises when he assured the women of Bihar for bringing a law to completely ban liquor.