Patna: In a huge blow to the Bihar government, the Patna High Court on Friday quashed the government notification scrapping the total liquor ban in the state, saying it is ultra vires to the Constitution.
A division bench of the court comprising Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari and Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh quashed the April 5 notification of the state government to stop consumption and sale of alcohol in the state.
The April 5 notification is ultra vires to the Constitution, hence not enforceable, the court said in its verdict.
The same bench had on May 20 reserved its order on a batch of writ petitions filed by Liquor Trade Association and many individuals challenging the liquor law in Bihar brought by Nitish Kumar government with stringent penal provisions.
The Nitish Kumar-led Grand Secular Alliance government had first banned the manufacture, trade, sale, consumption of country-made liquor since April 1, but later imposed a blanket ban on all types of liquor including foreign liquor in the state.
Earlier this month, the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Bill, 2016, was formally approved by Governor Ram Nath Kovind.
Last month, both houses of the Bihar legislature passed the bill with voice vote amidst boycott by the Opposition.
The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party dubbed it a "black law" and a "draconian" measure. The party introduced a series of amendments, but all were defeated by voice votes in the Assembly during the discussion.
Nitish Kumar recently announced that the new excise law would formally come into effect from October 2.
According to experts, the new law has stringent provisions for ensuring a total ban on consumption of liquor in the state. If it were implemented, all adult members of the family would be arrested if liquor is found stored in any household.
The Chief Minister had said the new legislation was required to plug gaping holes in the previous act that facilitated the liquor ban in the state with effect from from April 1.
The CM had taken up the cause of prohibition on a mission mode and has been continuously monitoring the implementation of the alcohol ban in the state.
Kumar has also toured many places in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab championing the cause of prohibition.
(With Agency inputs)