Disposal of liquor stocks in Bihar: Manufacturers move SC

New Delhi: Liquor manufacturers from Bihar today moved the Supreme Court seeking a clarification on its May 29 order granting time till July 31 to dispose old stocks of alcoholic beverages worth over Rs 200 crore outside the state.

A vacation bench of justices Ashok Bhushan and Deepak Gupta said that it would hear the matter tomorrow after senior lawyer Salman Khurshid, representing the liquor manufacturers, mentioned the matter before it.

Khurshid told the bench that the apex court’s May 29 order mentioned about time to destroy the stock but it did not indicate anything about its export.

“The issues were about the export and destruction of old stocks. The May 29 order indicates about destruction but the issue of export is not there in the order,” he said.

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.

On May 29, the counsel representing the manufacturers had submitted before the apex court that the firms would be incurring huge losses if they were not allowed to dispose of their existing stocks of alcoholic beverages outside Bihar.

The state government had opposed the demand for extension of time, claiming the firms were indulging in illegal liquor trade. The apex court had on March 31 granted time until May 31 to these companies 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. 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.

The Patna High Court had on September 30, 2016, quashed the notification banning consumption and sale of alcohol in the state, saying it was ultra vires to the Constitution. The Grand Secular Alliance government in Bihar had first banned manufacture, trade, sale and consumption of country- made liquor since April 1, 2016, but later imposed a blanket ban on all types of liquor, including foreign liquor, in the state.