In a jolt to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the Patna High Court on Friday decided to set aside his government’s anti-liquor law. Kumar, ever since his government enforced prohibition in the state in April this year, has travelled to large parts of India, praising the virtues of prohibition and has made it his political calling card as he looks at the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 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 that had put a stop to consumption and sale of alcohol in the state.
The high court’s decision comes just days before the Kumar-led government, which is a coalition comprising his Janata Dal (United), Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, was all set to notify the new and stricter prohibition law in the state. In recent months, Kumar has implored the Uttar Pradesh government to impose prohibition in that state and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he should encourage Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states to ban liquor, just as it is banned in the PM’s home state of Gujarat. Kumar has maintained that crime rates have seen a sharp drop in Bihar after the liquor ban. His government, however, has also been criticised for the draconian imposition of the law and the recent hooch tragedy in Gopalpur in August in which at least a dozen people died.