OPINION | Amid Soaring Crime Graph, Bihar Police Officers Lock Horns Over State Govt’s Decision to Split Force in Two

Source: news18.com

Patna: Amid growing incidents of lynching and deteriorating law and order situation in the state, Bihar police officers are locked in a bitter war of words, reflecting the rot that has set in the state police force over the years.

The state police force has mainly two groups that are at loggerheads.

The reason for the ongoing tug of war is Bihar government’s decision to bifurcate the state police force into two separate wings — the law and order wing and crime investigation wing — down to the police station level from August 15. The Supreme Court had issued an order in 2006 for separating the law and order duty and crime investigation down to the police station level.

Now there have been allegations that a concerted attempt is on to post the patrons of sand and liquor mafia within the police force in the law and order wing, but they want to control the crime investigation wing so that they can run the cartel without any hindrance.

Recently, the state police headquarters had directed to remove at least 386 Station House Officers (SHOs) and Circle Inspectors (CIs) from their posts as they were facing different charges, including moral turpitude, and were accused in cases involving sand and liquor smuggling. Most of them want to get posted in the lucrative crime investigation wing.

A few of them, however, claimed that the charges against them were fabricated and the senior officers did not do justice with them before blacklisting them. In response to the Facebook posts of Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey, an SHO had observed that he had been punished due to personal vendetta of his seniors even though he performed his duty with full sincerity.

The DGP, however, said that the grievances of such officers would be heard and taken care of if found to be correct. But the decision to shift them has been taken at the instance of chief minister Nitish Kumar, who has ‘zero tolerance’ on crime and corruption, the DGP said.

The Bihar Policemen’s Association has also taken up the matter contending that some of the officers have been wrongly put in the tainted list. “We will talk to the top officers for rescinding the decision or the working committee will meet on August 25 to chalk out future course of action,” said association president Mrityunjay Kumar Singh.

Against the backdrop of deteriorating crime situation, the DGP had recently revealed on his Facebook that he is not being allowed to work the way he wants to as some of his colleagues are spreading all kind of canard against him, thereby demoralising the morale of the police force.

The anguish expressed by DGP Pandey is a tell-tale story of how policing system in Bihar has been afflicted with deep-rooted casteism, lobbies patronised by senior officers and overall corruption even though some officers stand out in terms of integrity and dutifulness.

Insiders in the police headquarters claimed that the incumbent DGP is opposed by a coterie of senior police officers. His orders on improving infrastructure in police stations and controlling crime were either not obeyed or buried in official files on one pretext or the other.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has reviewed the law and order situation twice last month in view of rising incidents of contract and political killings, rapes, abductions for ransom and bank loot in the recent past in Bihar. The leader of opposition, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, had shot off a letter to the chief minister listing government’s alleged failure on the law and order front.

After coming to power in 2005, Nitish had demystified the myth that crime could not be kept on tight leash in Bihar. Within the framework of law, he focused on quick disposal of cases registered under the Arms Act since the witnesses in all such cases were primarily the policemen. This proved very effective in bringing down the number of pending cases under the Arms Act as scores of accused were convicted at the end of the trials.

Nitish appeared much aggrieved to know that nearly 1.4 lakh criminal cases are pending in the police stations across the state. The chief minister directed the DGP to dispose off pending cases at priority, upgrade the police stations and release the contingency funds.

The Bihar Police have been facing problems ever since the state government decided to introduce total prohibition and to regulate sand mining in the state. Most of the policemen have found smuggling of liquor and sand as lucrative trade and source of easy money.

Prior to his elevation to the post of DGP, Pandey had launched a personal campaign for implementing the liquor ban policy of the state government. He had addressed altogether 160 meetings in 35 districts in five months to make people aware about the liquor ban.

Policing in Bihar also grapples with the problem of poor police-public ratio as the state has one policeman for every 840 persons. According to the data of Bureau of Police Research and Development, a central agency keeping track of the state and central police forces, Bihar ranked 33rd among states and union territories in terms of police-public ratio as there is a huge shortage of manpower.

Having created investigation and law and order wings, the Bihar government has decided to recruit 24,000 constables, 4500 sub-inspectors and 2000 drivers to fill vacancies in the understaffed police force.

Bihar: 12 incidents of mob lynching reported in last 15 days, say Patna Police

Source: scroll.in

There have been 12 incidents of mob lynching across Bihar in the last 15 days, Additional Director General of Patna Police Jitendra Kumar told ANI on Wednesday. “Public shouldn’t take law in their hands,” said Kumar, adding that the Patna Police have organised a special drive across the state to spread awareness among people to not believe in rumours.

Two lynchings were reported from Rupaspur and Dhanarua in Patna district on Saturday night, according to The Times of India. As many as 32 people have been arrested in the Rupaspur case and two in the Dhanarua one.

“Specific instructions were given after Supreme Court had taken up the mob lynching issue and had directed state governments to act accordingly for preventing such violence,” Kumar said. “But after some recent incidents of thrashing over rumours, officials were directed to take steps by roping in public representatives.”

The Patna Police have begun conducting public events from Monday, Kumar said. He added that the police have been asked to pass on a message through village mukhiyas, sarpanches, and other representatives that nobody who indulges in rumour mongering will be spared.

Patna Senior Superintendent of Police Garima Malik said that a police-public meeting was held at Kadamkuan on Monday. Another event was held at Danapur bus stand in Danapur Cantonment.

“The motive to organise the programme at Danapur bus stand was that several people traverse through that point and words of police would reach locations were people would travel.” She said that the police also shared their phone numbers with members of the public.

Apart from Bihar, a spate of mob lynchings has claimed dozens of lives in Maharashtra, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Karnataka since March. In nearly all cases, the mobs seem to have been incited by widely shared WhatsApp videos and messages asking people to beware of child kidnappers. The victims have ranged from innocent people asking for directions; transgendered people; the poor; and the mentally challenged.

Enough evidence to show your ”Dadagiri”, SC tells ex-Jharkhand minister Sao

Source: outlookindia.com

New Delhi, Jul 26 The oral testimony of witnesses is enough “to show your Dadagiri (bullying tactics)”, the Supreme Court Friday told former Jharkhand minister Yogendra Sao, who has challenged his conviction and sentence in a 2011 extortion case.

The top court said this while agreeing to hear Sao”s plea challenging the April 26 order of Jharkhand High Court which dismissed his appeal against the conviction and two-and-a-half year sentence in the case.

A bench of Justices A M Sapre and Indu Malhotra issued notice and sought response from the Jharkhand government on the plea.

Senior advocate Rakesh Khanna, appearing for Sao, said the magisterial court did not have privilege to see entire call detail records (CDR) which included the period of alleged crime.

“Allegation is that I made a phone call and asked for money but the complete CDR was not filed. The CDR, which was filed before the trial court was till the month of March while the alleged occurrence of crime had taken place on April 24, 2011 and August 25, 2011,” he said.

Khanna said the trial court relied upon the testimony of prosecution witnesses and the informant who was an interested party.

“The oral testimony is enough to show your Dadagiri (bullying tactic). We cannot re-appreciate the whole evidence. There are concurrent findings against you by two courts,” the bench observed.

The top court, however, said that it will examine the matter and sought response from the state government in two weeks.

On April 26, the Jharkhand High Court had refused to interfere with trial court”s January 28, 2015 order convicting and sentencing Sao for two-and-a-half year rigorous imprisonment.

Sao was booked by the police on the charges of extortion on a complaint from a manager of Ramgarh Sponge Iron Private Limited and a case was registered against him on August 25, 2011.

The manager of the company has alleged that Sao threatened him on phone and demanded Rs 5 lakh.

Sao was then an MLA of Congress party and a member of the Committee of Jharkhand Legislative Assembly on Pollution Control.

Sao is lodged in jail after the apex court on April 12 ordered him to surrender before a court in Ranchi in cases related to rioting and inciting of violence.

The apex court had on April 4, trashed Sao”s plea seeking to campaign for the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls and cancelled his bail, saying he has violated the bail conditions.

Sao became a minister in the Hemant Soren-led UPA government in Jharkhand in 2013. He is named as an accused in over a dozen cases of rioting and instigation of violence.

The top court had then refused to cancel the bail of Sao”s wife Nirmala Devi. It had transferred the trial of 18 cases against Sao and Devi to Ranchi from Hazaribagh district in Jharkhand.

Both Devi and Sao are accused in a case relating to violent clashes between villagers and police in 2016 in which four persons were killed.

Devi, a Congress MLA, had led an agitation against NTPC authorities for their alleged attempt to forcibly evacuate villagers from Barkagaon without giving them due compensation or rehabilitation, according to police.

SC Refrains from Continuing With Pleas on Encephalitis in Bihar, Says Steps Have Been Taken to Combat Menace

Source: news18.com

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday decided to refrain from hearing any further the petition relating to the outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district saying steps have already been taken to combat the menace.

The apex court took on record the affidavits filed by state government and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in which the two said that they were cooperating and working together to combat the disease which has claimed more than 100 deaths.

The Bihar government had said that the state, in cooperation with the Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and other agencies, has simultaneously provided all medical facilities to treat the affected children.

Similarly, the Centre had also said it was proactively providing all support to Bihar in containing the AES.

“Having perused the affidavit of Bihar and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, we are not inclined to continue to entertain these writ petitions any further in view of the steps which are stated to have been taken to combat the menace of the encephalitis disease that has struck the different parts of Bihar.

“If the petitioners have any further grievance, they are free to move the High Court of Patna. The writ petitions are disposed of accordingly. Intervention application(s) and other pending interlocutory applications, if any, shall stand disposed of,” a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta said.

During the hearing, the bench expressed displeasure that the petitioner has raised other issues like 57 per cent shortage of doctors etc.

“So you want us to exercise our jurisdiction for filling of vacancy of doctors. You go to Patna High Court.,” it said, adding that petitions would be filed relating to shortage of ministers, shortage of MPs in Rajya Sabha and shortage of water etc.

“We are not inclined to entertain,” the bench said.

The apex court on June 24 had taken note of the petition filed by an advocate, Manohar Pratap, who had said he was deeply “pained and saddened” by the deaths of more than 126 children, mostly in the age group of one to 10 years, in the past weeks.

It had asked the Centre and the state government to file their affidavits on the adequacy of medical facilities, nutrition and sanitation and the hygiene conditions in the state.

Keep Apex Court out of Aya Ram-Gaya Ram game

Source: freepressjournal.in

It is clear the JD(S)-Congress Government of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy in Karnataka has lost majority. It is also equally clear the CM is using every stratagem to delay the inevitable. But why is the State Governor, Vajubhai Vala, shooting off missives to the Chief Minister and the Speaker, K R Ramesh Kumar? Why cannot he let the warring politicians sort out the mess on their own? What is the Governor’s hurry, even if a case can be made out to justify his intervention? Yes, under the Constitution he is empowered to intervene, but when both sides are engaged in a naked power struggle, it is better that the Governor adopts a hands-off approach so long as it does not degenerate into something worse. Besides, Governor’s anxiety to set a short schedule for the trust vote creates the impression that he is leaning in favour of his former party and its leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, B S Yeddyurappa, who is keen to replace Kumaraswamay as chief minister. Having said that, it is regrettable that the ugly Aya Ram, Gaya Ram sport that the rival politicians play with some relish invariably drags in the higher judiciary as the umpire. As a result, its independence and impartiality unnecessarily gets dragged into the bitterly partisan tussle for power.

In the current instance, the Supreme Court order that virtually nullified the power of the whip to force obedience allowed the leavers from the JD(S)-Congress to absent themselves from the trust vote, thus, giving the Opposition a clear advantage. Had the coalition partners retained the power of the whip, the deserters would have forfeited their membership for failing to attend and vote for the Kumaraswamy Government. On Friday, the ruling coalition, unheeding the two gubernatorial directions for conducting the trust vote, first, by 1.30 p. m., which later, in a second directive, was revised to 6 p.m., adjourned the proceedings till Monday, July 22. In the meantime, the coalition partners would again seek the SC intervention to a) withdraw its controversial order allowing legislators freedom to decide whether or not to attend the House and, b) to challenge the validity of the Governor’s action in setting time for the confidence vote. It is argued that the Governor could not have intervened during the debate on the trust vote while he could have done the same before its start.

The Supreme Court being asked to intervene in these matters, which of course diverts its time and attention away from disposing the mountain of long-pending cases before it, ought to be unwelcome. As cited above, even if its pronouncements are meticulously fair and just, it is bound to displease one party or the other. In these days of a bitterly divided politics, it does not enhance the image and dignity of the court to be dragged in almost on a regular basis in matters involving wholly unprincipled power struggle in one State or the other.

A set of guidelines on the constitutional dos and don’ts, clear red-lines so to speak, ought to be framed by the higher judiciary so that it can be insulated from the inter- and intra-party disputes of the nature that we now witness in Karnataka. In some way, Karnataka’s game of defections with all its attendant consequences has nothing new. We have been there before several times. Therefore, a Standard Operating Procedure for Aya Rams and Gaya Rams in all its permutations and combinations ought to be put in place. The Supreme Court, when the new set of petitioners knock on its door seeking reversal of its order freeing the coalition’s defectors from the obligatory attendance in the Assembly is taken up on Monday, ought to consider appointing an amicus curie to frame the above-mentioned SOP. Since politicians are unlikely to stop playing the game of defections, we cannot have the highest court in the land being dragged in their power struggles on a regular basis.

Mob kills three in Bihar on suspicion of cattle theft, three arrested

Source: in.reuters.com

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A mob on Friday beat to death three men suspected of trying to steal cattle in Bihar, police said, the latest in a spate of attacks that have provoked alarm among religious minorities.

In recent years angry mobs have lynched many people from marginalised groups in India, especially Muslims and the Dalits who occupy the lowest rung of the ancient caste system, often over suspicions of cow slaughter.

The three men were caught by some villagers early on Friday while trying to load cattle on a pickup truck, police official Har Kishore Rai said.

“They were trying to load a buffalo and a calf when some villagers woke up and took the three into their custody and beat them up,” he said, adding that the men had died.

Police have arrested three people from the village of Pithauri and have filed a case of murder against four more from the village, administrative official Lokesh Mishra told Reuters.

Police have filed a case of theft against the three men, and the villagers face a separate case of murder filed by the victims’ families, naming three accused people, although more names are likely to be added, Mishra said.

Hinduism, India’s dominant religion, considers cows sacred, and killing them is taboo.

Activists have tracked a rise in the number of mob lynchings in the last five years that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has been in power. Critics accuse it of not having done enough to rein in such violence.

The Supreme Court last year recommended making mob lynching a separate offence. In July, opposition parties in Bihar demanded a separate law against mob lynching in the state, where they say the problem is growing.

100-bed paediatric ICU to be set up in SKMCH, Muzaffarpur within a year: Centre to SC

Source: asianage.com

New Delhi: The Centre on Monday filed a reply in the Supreme Court on the AES outbreak in Bihar, saying that a decision has been taken to set up a 100-bedded paediatric ICU at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur in one year with funds from it.

Five virology labs were set up in different districts of the state and 10-bedded paediatric ICUs will also be established in different districts, it said.

The reply submitted that despite the fact that health is a state subject, the central government had taken all steps for giving necessary help and assistance to the Bihar government to contain the outbreak.

The death toll due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) mounted to 140 in Muzaffarpur district on Friday.

As per official data, 119 deaths have been reported at the government-run SKMCH, which is handling the largest number of patients in the district, while 21 deaths have been confirmed at Kejriwal Hospital.

The state has been battling with the vector-borne disease for the past several weeks.

AES is a viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms such as high fever, vomiting and in extreme cases, brain dysfunction, seizure, and inflammation of heart and kidney.

The Supreme Court had on June 24 expressed “serious concern” over the rising number of deaths due to the disease.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the children who died due to AES.

AES in Bihar: Providing all support to contain it, Centre tells SC

Source: business-standard.com

The Centre told the Supreme Court Wednesday that it was proactively providing all support to Bihar in containing and managing Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in which more than children have died.

In an affidavit filed on a plea seeking measures for containment of the disease, the Centre said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had visited Bihar on June 16, to review the situation in Muzaffarpur.

It said that after the visit several decisions were taken including construction of a 100 bed Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at SKMCH hospital in Muzaffarpur by the state government in one years from the funds of National Health Mission (NHM).

“The land for the same (100-bed Paediatric ICU) is available in the premise of the SKMCH hospital and will be provided by the state,” the affidavit said.

It said a decision has been taken to set up five virology labs in different districts of the state from the NHM funds and the location of the districts will be decided in consultation with the state government.

Detailing further decisions taken, the Centre said: “In the adjoining districts, 10-bed Paediatric ICUs to be setup so that such cases can be treated early and there is no unnecessary load on the facilities available at SKMCH. Funds for this are to be provided through NHM.”

The ministry said that to enable early detection and treatment of the hypoglycemia cases, a dedicated team of doctors will be placed in endemic Primary Health Centres with required facilities, at least for three-four months before and during expected onset of disease.

“As for present, the concerned PHCs and CHCs (Community Health Centres) should take prompt corrective measures for hypoglycemia at the facility itself to utilize the golden hour”, the affidavit said.

It said that a Super Speciality Block is being constructed at SKMCH hospital, Muzaffarpur and it would start functioning by first week of December.

Besides these steps, the affidavit said that Ministry of Earth Sciences has been requested to upgrade its IMD Observatory facility for improved monitoring of climate related parameters such as temperature humidity, rainfall and share it with the state government for better preparedness and management of AES.

It said the minister has decided to constitute inter-disciplinary, high quality research team for ascertaining the case of AES with specific reference to Muzaffarpur.

“The vacant positions of district epidemiologist and entomologist in Muzaffarpur to be filled up immediately by the state government,” the health ministry said added that health is a state subject as per the Constitutional provisions.

The apex court is hearing a petition filed by advocate Manohar Pratap who has said that he was deeply “pained and saddened” by the deaths of more than 126 children, mostly in the age group of one to 10 years, in Bihar due to AES.

Besides Centre, the apex court had also asked Bihar government to file its response on the issue.

In a shocking revelation about medical care facilities in Bihar, which is facing an outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome, the state government Tuesday told the Supreme Court that there are only 5,205 doctors in government-run health centres against the sanctioned strength of 12,206.

The state government, in an affidavit filed in the apex court, said that only 5,634 nurses were there in government run hospitals and health centres against sanctioned strength of 19,155.

The court had on June 24 directed the state to apprise it about the status of public medical care facilities, nutrition and sanitation within a week in view of deaths of over 100 children in Muzaffarpur due to the outbreak of AES.

Regarding AES cases, the state government said 824 cases have been reported and the number of deaths was 157.

It, however, said that it was not known whether 24 deaths out of 215 cases were due to AES.

“State of Bihar had already taken all possible steps to prevent the spread of the disease by providing additional medical facilities at the affected region, public awareness campaign at the village level, involving various agencies to assist the government etc,” it said.

Symptoms of AES include high fever, convulsions and extremely low blood sugar levels. Among the factors said to trigger the syndrome are malnutrition.

There were more than 44,000 cases and nearly 6,000 deaths from encephalitis in India between 2008 and 2014, said a 2017 study published in The Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR).

Researchers said the patients often report acute onset of fever and altered consciousness, with a rapidly deteriorating clinical course, leading to death within hours.

Litchis grown in Muzaffarpur, the country’s largest litchi cultivation region, are said to contain a toxin which can cause a drop in blood sugar levels if consumed by a malnourished child.

Bihar’s affidavit in SC depicts poor state of healthcare facilities in state

Source: business-standard.com

In a shocking revelation about medical care facilities in Bihar, which is facing an outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome, the state government Tuesday told the Supreme Court that there are only 5,205 doctors in government-run health centres against the sanctioned strength of 12,206.

The state government, in an affidavit filed in the apex court, said that only 5,634 nurses were there in government run hospitals and health centres against sanctioned strength of 19,155.

The court had on June 24 directed the state to apprise it about the status of public medical care facilities, nutrition and sanitation within a week in view of deaths of over 100 children in Muzaffarpur due to the outbreak of AES.

Regarding AES cases, the state government said 824 cases have been reported and the number of deaths was 157.

It, however, said that it was not known whether 24 deaths out of 215 cases were due to AES.

“State of Bihar had already taken all possible steps to prevent the spread of the disease by providing additional medical facilities at the affected region, public awareness campaign at the village level, involving various agencies to assist the government etc,” it said.

Giving details of the status of available clinical human resource, the Bihar government said there was 57 per cent and 71 per cent vacancy of doctors and nurses respectively.

In case of lab technicians and pharmacists, the vacancy stands at 72 per cent and 58 per cent of the sanctioned strength, the affidavit said.

“It is respectfully submitted that the overall human resources available in health system in the state is not as per standard norms,” the affidavit said, adding that health department has taken steps to recruit medical officers, para-medical and other technical support staff.

It said that requisition for recruitment of 4,012 general duty medical officers and 2,425 specialist doctors has been sent to the Bihar technical services selection commission.

The state government said that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar himself “is personally involved and actively engaged in finding ways and means to control and treat the dreaded AES disease” in Bihar.

It said that the state, in cooperation with the Centre, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and other agencies, has simultaneously provided all medical facilities to treat the affected children.

“The steps taken up by the State has prevented spread of the disease and has reduced the fatality rate arising out of the AES disease,” it said, adding, “In view of the steps taken by the state of Bihar, the fatality rate has come down to 19 per cent whereas the global fatality rate of AES is around 30 per cent”.

“In view of the constant and consistent efforts taken by the state of Bihar and in view of the change in weather conditions, there is a substantial reduction in number of reported cases of AES and JE in the State. The state of Bihar would continue its efforts to prevent any such condition in future,” it said.

The state government said that malnutrition is associated with the issue of sanitation and safe drinking water and they are already working on sanitation and hygiene issues under the ‘seven-nischay yojana’.

“It is respectfully submitted that the state government has initiated a socio-economic survey in affected areas to ascertain socio-economic factors behind AES incidence to initiate vigorous and coordinated campaign with the active involvement of the concerned departments to bring about speedy improvement/change in the socio-economic status of the relatively poor people who are mainly susceptible and vulnerable to the threat of AES disease,” it said.

The state government said that they are fully aware and “quite conscious of recurrent resurfacing” of AES cases in Bihar and has been continuously taking steps to protect and save precious human lives.

Besides Bihar, the apex court had also asked the Centre to file response on the issue.

The apex court is hearing a petition filed by advocate Manohar Pratap who has said that he was deeply “pained and saddened” by the deaths of more than 126 children, mostly in the age group of one to 10 years, in Bihar due to AES.

“The deaths of children are a direct result of negligence and inaction on the part of the respective state governments of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Union of India in handling the epidemic situation which arises every year due to outbreak of AES also called Japanese encephalitis,” the plea said.

The petitioner has also sought directions for all possible steps to stop the disease outbreak in the earlier epicentre, Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, and to create awareness about preventive steps and first aid.

Symptoms of AES include high fever, convulsions and extremely low blood sugar levels. Among the factors said to trigger the syndrome are malnutrition.

There were more than 44,000 cases and nearly 6,000 deaths from encephalitis in India between 2008 and 2014, said a 2017 study published in The Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR).

Researchers said the patients often report acute onset of fever and altered consciousness, with a rapidly deteriorating clinical course, leading to death within hours.

Litchis grown in Muzaffarpur, the country’s largest litchi cultivation region, are said to contain a toxin which can cause a drop in blood sugar levels if consumed by a malnourished child.

Drunk occupants of pvt vehicles can be prosecuted under Bihar prohibition law: SC

Source: business-standard.com

The Supreme Court Monday said that a private vehicle in Bihar is defined as a “public place” by the state’s prohibition law and if a person is travelling drunk, police have the power to prosecute.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and K M Joseph made the observation while deciding on an appeal filed by some persons, who were travelling to Patna from Jharkhand’s Giridih on June 25, 2016 in a private vehicle after consuming liquor, and were arrested by police.

Their vehicle was stopped for routine checking at a police post in Nawada district of Bihar and when subjected to breath analyser test, it was found that they were drunk.

Though, no liquor bottles were found in the vehicle, they were arrested by the police and remained in custody for two days.

They had moved the apex court challenging a Patna High Court’s February 16 last year judgement dismissing their application seeking to set aside an order passed by the magistrate who had taken cognisance of the offence punishable under the provision of the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016.

The counsel appearing for them contended before the apex court that no offence was made out under the provision of the 2016 Act and the vehicle in which they were travelling cannot be said to be a “public place” within the law.

The counsel appearing for Bihar countered the submissions and said that their vehicle was intercepted at a public road and no error was committed by the magistrate in taking cognisance of the offence.

“We have to further take into notice that private vehicle of the appellants was intercepted when it was on the public road. When private vehicle is passing through a public road it cannot be accepted that public have no access. It is true that public may not have access to private vehicle as matter of right but definitely public have opportunity to approach the private vehicle while it is on the public road,” the bench said in its verdict.

“Hence, we are not able to accept the submission that vehicle in which appellants are travelling is not covered by definition of ‘public place’ as defined in Section 2(17A) of the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016,” the bench said.

The bench also dealt with the contentions of the counsel appearing for the appellants who said that offence under the provision of the Act can only be committed when liquor was consumed in a public place.

The bench noted that as per Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, even if a person consumes liquor outside the state and enter into the territory of Bihar and is found drunk or in a state of drunkenness, he can be charged with offences under section 37(b) of the Act.

“We, however, cannot take a decision on the above issue in this appeal. Whether charge that consumption of liquor has taken place within the state of Bihar is made out in the facts of the present case are questions which need to be decided by the Magistrate after looking into the materials brought on record by means of the charge sheet,” the bench said.

The bench granted liberty to the petitioners to file an application seeking discharge before the magistrate.