The Bihar Prohibition and Excise Bill, 2016 was introduced and debated in the Bihar Legislative Assembly today. The Bill creates a framework for the levy of excise duty and imposes a prohibition on alcohol in Bihar. In this context, we examine key provisions and some issues related to the Bill. Prohibition on the manufacture, sale, storage and consumption of alcohol was imposed in Bihar earlier in 2016, by amending the Bihar Excise Act, 1915. The Bill replaces the 1915 Act and the Bihar Prohibition Act, 1938. Key features of the Bill include:
Process to be followed for offences The Bill outlines the following process to be followed in case an offence is committed:
Some issues that need to be considered
The Bill presumes that the family members, owner and occupants of the building or land ought to have known that an illegal act is taking place. In all such cases, the Bill prescribes a punishment of at least 10 years of imprisonment, and a fine of at least one lakh rupees.
These provisions may violate Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Article 14 of the Constitution provides that no person will be denied equality before law. This protects individuals from any arbitrary actions of the state. It may be argued that imposing criminal liability on (i) family members and (ii) owner or occupants of the building, for the action of another person is arbitrary in nature.
Article 21 of the Constitution states that no person can be deprived of their life and personal liberty, except according to procedure established by law. Courts have interpreted this to mean that any procedure established by law should be fair and reasonable. It needs to be examined whether presuming that (i) family members of an offender, and (ii) owner or occupant of the building knew about the offence, and making them criminally liable, is reasonable.
Note that under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 an imprisonment at least 10 years is attracted in crimes such as use of acid to cause injury, or trafficking of a minor. Other states where a prohibition on alcohol is imposed provide for a lower imprisonment term for such offences. These include Gujarat (at least seven years) and Nagaland (maximum three years).
Note: At the time of publishing this blog, the Bill was being debated in the Legislative Assembly.  E.P. Royappa v State of Tamil Nadu, Supreme Court, Writ Petition No. 284 of 1972, November 23, 1973.  Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597.  Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949, http://www.prohibition-excise.gujarat.gov.in/Upload/06asasas_pne_kaydaao_niyamo_1.pdf.
Discussion on the first no-confidence motion of the 17th Lok Sabha began today. No-confidence motions and confidence motions are trust votes, used to test or demonstrate the support of Lok Sabha for the government in power. Article 75(3) of the Constitution states that the government is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. This means that the government must always enjoy the support of a majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Trust votes are used to examine this support. The government resigns if a majority of members support a no-confidence motion, or reject a confidence motion.
So far, 28 no-confidence motions (including the one being discussed today) and 11 confidence motions have been discussed. Over the years, the number of such motions has reduced. The mid-1960s and mid-1970s saw more no-confidence motions, whereas the 1990s saw more confidence motions.
Figure 1: Trust votes in Parliament
Note: *Term shorter than 5 years; **6-year term.
Source: Statistical Handbook 2021, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; PRS.
The no-confidence motion being discussed today was moved on July 26, 2023. A motion of no-confidence is moved with the support of at least 50 members. The Speaker has the discretion to allot time for discussion of the motion. The Rules of Procedure state that the motion must be discussed within 10 days of being introduced. This year, the no-confidence motion was discussed 13 calendar days after introduction. Since the introduction of the no-confidence motion on July 26, 12 Bills have been introduced and 18 Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha. In the past, on four occasions, the discussion on no-confidence motions began seven days after their introduction. On these occasions, Bills and other important issues were debated before the discussion on the no-confidence motion began.
Figure 2: Members rise in support of the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha