A day after the Patna High Court struck down the liquor ban in Bihar, the state government is firm on going ahead with its plan to implement prohibition from Sunday, officials said on Saturday.
Before the high court pronounced its order on Friday, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led state government had already announced to implement the stringent new Bihar Excise & Prohibition Act, 2016 from Gandhi Jayanti on October 2.
The state government is also set to file a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court challenging the high court order. "We are looking into the high court's 150-page judgement and will approach the apex court soon," Additional Advocate General Lalit Kishore said.
"The Bihar Excise & Prohibition Act, 2016 will come into force from October 2 and total liquor ban will continue in Bihar. The high court order was related to the old Act that came into force in April this year," he explained.
He made it clear that the high court order would not impact the new Act, to be implemented from Sunday.
According to him, both Houses of the Bihar legislature had passed the Act and it was formally approved by Governor Ram Nath Kovind. "There is no need for gazette notification. The state Cabinet has already taken a decision for its implementation from Oct 2."
Legal experts pointed out that the new law has stringent provisions for ensuring a total ban on consumption of liquor in the state. If it is implemented, all adult members of the family would be arrested if liquor is found stored in any household.
Kumar had said that the new legislation is required to plug gaping holes in the previous Act that facilitated the liquor ban in the state with effect from April.
The opposition BJP dubbed it a "black law" and a "draconian" measure. The party introduced a series of amendments but all were defeated by voice vote in the assembly during the discussion.
An official of the excise department, however, said that the state government is yet to notify the Act. "It is likely that government notifies the new Act before it comes into force."
The Chief Minister is likely to chair a Cabinet meeting on Oct 2, in which a final decision would be taken in connection with the notification and implementation of the new Act in the state.
"A Cabinet meeting has been convened on Sunday here. Usually, Cabinet meetings take place on Tuesdays, but next meeting on Sunday is going to be something special," an official in the Chief minister's office said.
In fact, the high court's order on Friday, quashing the April 5 notification of total liquor ban in the state, is a major setback for Nitish Kumar, who had slapped the ban.
The Chief Minister, who has been championing prohibition, even suggested imposing a similar ban in other states during his campaigns outside Bihar. This year he has visited Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand and addressed public meetings in which he appealed to the respective state governments to impose a liquor ban.
In political circles, it is seen as his well-crafted design to project himself as the prime ministerial candidate to counter Prime minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 general election.
After the liquor ban was imposed in Bihar, Nitish Kumar had repeatedly cited the positive effects of it, saying that the crime graph in the state has come down and there is peace in rural areas.
According to police records, more than 16,000 people have been arrested for violation of the liquor ban in the last six months and over 100,000 litres of illegal liquor has been seized.