Prohibition accused can seek advance bail: Patna HC

A division bench of the Patna High Court has ruled that an accused charged with violation of prohibition as defined under the new Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016 can be granted anticipatory bail.

The division bench comprising Justice KK Mandal and Justice Madhuresh Prasad thus reversed the order of the single bench of the Patna High Court, which had earlier ruled that an accused cannot be granted anticipatory bail under the new Excise Act, which came into effect since October 2016.

The high court ruling is seen as a major setback to the Nitish Kumar-led regime, which had come with up the strict law to serve as a deterrent for violators of prohibition and could have served in compliance of complete prohibition in Bihar, which became a dry state in April 2016.

The new Excise Act has no provisions for granting bail. Section 76 (1) of the Act clearly states that all offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable.

A single bench of the Patna High Court had on July 7 said that in a case related to an offence under the 2016 Act, an application under Section 438 of the CrPC (anticpatory bail application) was not maintainable.

In view of this, the division bench of the Patna High Court has now clarified that: "There is no restriction either for the registry to accept such a petition or to any person apprehending his/her arrest relating to an offence under the Act to approach this court for grant of anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Cr PC."

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