India: Death penalty for hooch deaths in Uttar Pradesh

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Lucknow: To tighten the screws on the state’s illicit liquor mafia, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to add a section in the Excise Act to provide for death penalty or life imprisonment for those responsible for hooch deaths.

The state government may soon issue an ordinance in this regard, a senior minister said.

The decision to add the death penalty provision was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, an official release said here on Wednesday.

The measure would act as a deterrent, UP Excise Minister Jai Pratap Singh told PTI.

After Delhi and Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh would become the third state where bootleggers may be sent to the gallows if consumption of spurious liquor leads to loss of life.

“Since the state legislature is not in session, an ordinance will be brought and when the House meets, a bill can be passed,” Singh said.

He explained that to curb the manufacture of spurious liquor, provisions of life imprisonment and death penalty will be incorporated in the existing law through the ordinance.

The death penalty provision will be applied depending upon the intensity of the case, he said.

The minister also said a new state excise policy was on the drawing board and would be ready in the next six months.

As per the proposal mooted in the cabinet last night, the government will amend various sections of the UP Excise Act, 2010 and add a new section 60(A) for the purpose. The amendment will also make the offence non-bailable.

The new section seeks to provide that the guilty may be punished with life imprisonment, or Rs1 million (Dh57,131) penalty, or both, or capital punishment, in case of death or permanent disability caused to a person or persons due to consumption of illicit liquor.

The other sections to be amended seek to enhance financial penalties in other illicit liquor related offences.

The UP government seems to have taken a cue from Gujarat where in 2011, the then chief minister Narendra Modi had brought in the provision for capital punishment in such offences.

Hooch tragedies take a heavy toll every year in Uttar Pradesh.

In July, 17 people died in Azamgarh after they consumed spurious liquor. Earlier 28 people died in a similar tragedy in the Malihabad area of Lucknow in 2015.

Making a case for harsher punishment with regard to illicit liquor trade, the excise department had pointed out to the government that large-scale import of illicit liquor from neighbouring states, especially Haryana, was not only making a significant dent into the revenue but also causing hooch tragedies.

The new act also aims to crack down on the nexus between excise department employees and illicit liquor traders.

The amended excise act will also provide for action under the stringent Gangsters Act against persons caught with more than 50 litres of illegal liquor.

Earlier, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had taken cognisance of hooch deaths in Etah and Farrukhabad districts last year and issued notices to the state chief secretary and the director general of police.

The NHRC intervened after over 30 people lost their lives in hooch tragedies in Etah and Farrukhabad districts.

Huge quantity of illicit liquor and raw materials have been recovered in the past from various places in UP including Bareilly, Bijnor, Etah, Kanpur Dehat, Allahabad, Mau, Kushinagar and Sonbhadra districts.