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SC to hear on January 9 plea seeking SIT probe into Bihar hooch tragedy

The matter was mentioned for urgent listing before a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha.

By Newsd
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Bihar: 5 dead due to consumption of hooch in Nalanda

The Supreme Court said on Tuesday a petition seeking an independent probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into the last month’s hooch tragedy in Bihar which claimed many lives will be heard on January 9.

The plea about the tragedy in Saran district, where at least 30 people lost their lives after consuming illicit liquor, has also sought a direction to the state government to adequately compensate the victim families.

The matter was mentioned for urgent listing before a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha.

”It will come up next Monday,” the bench told advocate Pawan Prakash Pathak who mentioned the matter.

Bihar’s Nitish Kumar government imposed a complete prohibition in April 2016 and has rejected the demand for compensation to the families of those who died after consuming spurious liquor.

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The petition, filed in the apex court by Bihar-based Aryavarta Mahasabha Foundation, has arrayed the Centre and the state of Bihar as respondents.

It has said a multi-pronged plan is needed to prevent the sale and consumption of toxic alcohol.

The plea has also sought a direction for chalking out a national action plan to curb manufacture and trade of illicit liquor. It said the hooch tragedy in Bihar on December 14 last year has ”caused a furore” in the country.

”With political parties training their guns on each other, as many as 40 people have died so far after consuming spurious liquor, while others have been hospitalised and there is no official report on the incident,” the petition claimed.

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It said this is not the first time that India has reported an incident of people dying after consuming spurious liquor and similar cases were reported from various states, including Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, in recent years.

”Hooch is a kind of liquor which is cheap, brewed in small unregulated shanties and does not attract excise tax. This inferior quality drink is usually made after mixing chemicals with water, which is then consumed by people,” it said.

The plea said it is more commonly sold in states that have imposed a full ban on liquor.

It said currently four states — Gujarat, Bihar, Nagaland and Mizoram — have laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol and the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 was enacted to enforce a complete prohibition.

”Under the Act, manufacturing, bottling, distribution, transportation, collection, storage, possession, purchase, sale or consumption of any intoxicant or liquor is prohibited. From 2018 to 2020, over 45,000 FIRs were registered under the Act every year,” it says.

The petition recalled in February last year the apex court had observed that trial courts in Bihar and the Patna High Court are being crowded by bail applications in matters under the 2016 Act.

It said ever since the Bihar government prohibited liquor sale in the state in 2016, it has invited scathing criticism for its substantial failure to enforce the ban and for several adverse consequences that the move has thrust on the people there.

”What is not implementable may not be operationalised despite the nobility of the cause. Bihar has failed to apply this simple test in the present instance,” it said.

The plea further said recently, a question was raised on the issue in the Lok Sabha but no effective steps are being taken to curb the menace of the liquor mafia and cartels running the show.

It said, according to the Lok Sabha data released on July 19 last year, five states, including Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, reported the maximum number of deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor between 2016 and 2020.

”According to the data, India reported over 6,000 deaths in five years between 2016 and 2020 due to the consumption of spurious liquor. India logged the lowest number of deaths in 2020 with 947,” it said.

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