The Supreme Court today adjourned for tomorrow the hearing on a plea of liquor manufacturers from Bihar seeking a clarification on its order granting time till July 31 to dispose of old stocks of alcoholic beverages worth over Rs 200 crore outside the state. The matter came up for hearing before a vacation bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and Deepak Gupta but the counsel for Bihar government was not present. “The state has to be heard before we pass any order. This is an important matter,” the bench said.
Senior advocate Salman Khurshid, representing the liquor manufacturers, told the apex court that they had informed the Bihar government’s counsel about today’s hearing. Khurshid, who had mentioned the matter yesterday, had told the bench that the apex court’s May 29 order spoke about time to destroy the stock but it did not indicate anything about its export. In the May 29 order, the apex court had said, “Time to destroy/drain the stocks is extended up to July 31, 2017. It is made clear that no further extension will be granted in future.” Earlier, the court had extended till May 31 the deadline of April 30 for disposing of old stocks, including raw material, fixed by the Nitish Kumar government which had imposed a ban on liquor in the state from April 1 last year.
The apex court had on March 31 granted time till May 31 to dispose of the old stocks and directed them to follow the resolution passed by the Bihar government on disposal of stocks following the imposition of prohibition in the state.
The Bihar government, which has prohibited consumption, stocking and sale of liquor in the state had on March 30, had passed a resolution by which it has allowed the companies to export their old stocks to other states. The state government had granted time to export the excisable and non-excisable articles till April 30, after which they will not be able to do so. On October 7, 2016, the apex court had stayed the operation of Patna High Court judgement quashing the state’s law banning sale and consumption of all types of liquor, saying liquor and fundamental rights “do not go together”. The Bihar government has challenged the high court verdict of September 30, 2016, which had quashed the notification banning consumption and sale of liquor in the state.
The Bihar government has challenged the high court verdict of September 30, 2016, which had quashed the notification banning consumption and sale of liquor in the state. However, after the law was set aside, Bihar government had come out with a new law banning sale and consumption of liquor which was notified on October 2, 2016. It had notified the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 to ensure that the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol including Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as well spiced and domestic liquor, continued in the state.