Chandigarh, March 1(Gurlal Singh)

To eradicate the menace of illicit/illegal and spurious liquor in the state, the Punjab Cabinet on Monday gave its approval to amend the Punjab Excise Act, 1914 by adding section 61-A and amendment of section 61 and section 63 and to introduce the Bill in this regard in the ongoing Budget session of Vidhan Sabha.

This decision was taken during a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh here at CMO this afternoon.

According to the spokesperson of Chief Minister’s Office, the Cabinet decided a systematic change in the Excise Act to introduce deterrent punishment to anyone indulging in such malpractices in wake of unfortunate tragedy in the districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran, whereby several precious lives were lost due to consumption of spurious and adulterated liquor in July, 2020.

It was felt to bring a paradigm shift to strengthen the Act to deal with cases sternly where due to consumption of adulterated or illicit liquor, death or severe injury is caused. The underlining objective of such provisions to be introduced in the Punjab Excise Act is to instil fear of law amongst the law breakers and to impose stiff punishment on the offenders.

Divulging the details, a new section 61-A has been inserted in Punjab Excise Act, 1914 as its the Sub Section (1) stipulates whoever mixes or permits to be mixed with any liquor sold or manufactured or possessed by him any noxious drug or any foreign ingredient likely to cause disability or grievous hurt or death to human beings, shall be punishable. In case of death, such guilty shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to twenty lakh rupees, in case of disability or grievous hurt, the guilty would be punished with imprisonment for at least six years extendable up to life imprisonment, and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees. Likewise, any other consequential injury is caused to a person, the guilty shall be punished with the imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, and fine which may extend to five lakh rupees, and in case of no injury caused to a person, the guilty shall be punished with the imprisonment which may extend to six months and fine which may extend to two lakh and fifty thousand rupees.

The Cabinet also made provision by amending Excise act to provide compensation to the victims’ families by the manufacturer and seller of spurious liquor.

According to the Section 61-A (2) (i), the court may order if it satisfied that death or injury has been caused to any person due to consumption of liquor sold in any place, order the manufacturer and seller, whether or not he is convicted of an offence, to pay, by way of compensation, an amount not less than five lakh rupees to the legal representatives of each deceased or three lakh rupees to the person to whom grievous hurt has been caused, or fifty thousand rupees to the person for any other consequential injury. Provided that where the liquor is sold in a licensed shop, the liability to pay the compensation under this section shall be on the licensee and further that no appeal can be filed by the accused unless the amount ordered to be paid under this section is deposited by him in the court.

The section 63 has also been amended to enhance the term of imprisonment in the existing provisions of the Act from one year to three years and amount of fine up to Rs. 1000 to 10,000 for the offence of alteration or attempt to alteration of denatured spirit.

Likewise, the Cabinet also gave approval to amend section 61 (1) to enhance the term of imprisonment from three years to five years under the chapter ‘Offences and Penalties’ of the Act for unlawful import, export, transport, manufacture and possession etc. of any intoxicant.

In order to strengthen the Section 61(1) (v) of the Punjab Excise Act 1914, the limit of foreign liquor has been reduced to Twenty Seven Bulk litres from Ninety bulk litres. At present, as per any person who unlawfully imports, exports, transports any foreign liquor exceeding Ninety Bulk Litres on which duty has not been paid, shall be punishable with an imprisonment not less than two years and a fine not less than two lacs of rupees. It has been found that in most of the cases the volume of foreign liquor transported is less than Ninety bulk litres.