The Supreme Court has directed the Punjab government to continue to take action to stop the manufacture and transportation of illicit home-made liquor and operation of illegal “bhattis” (distilleries) in the state.
A bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar reiterated that the local police shall be held responsible if any illegal “bhatti” is found operating within their jurisdiction.
“The State of Punjab is directed to continue the steps to stop the illegal manufacture and transportation of spurious liquor and stop the illegal bhattis. As reported earlier, the local police shall be held responsible if any illegal bhatti in their area is found. The state is directed to act accordingly,” the bench said.
With regard to earlier incidents of people dying after consuming spurious liquor, the apex court noted that seven FIRs were filed with respect to three incidents in three districts.
“In all those cases, after the investigation, the accused were arrested and charge-sheeted and the trial is going on,” the apex court noted and said no further order is required in the matter.
The top court had earlier voiced concern over the burgeoning illicit liquor trade and drug menace in Punjab, and asked the state government to fix responsibility on the local police for failing to keep a vigil.
“We are not concerned with the A government or B government. As far as Punjab is concerned, the drug problem is increasing. The youth will be finished. It is very unfortunate that this is happening. Who is the sufferer? The poor people. Illegal manufacture and transportation has to stop because it ultimately affects the health and the society.
“If somebody wants to finish the country and more particularly, from the border states, they will start with the borders. Every extra caution should be taken to save the country. Tell your government to be very serious. They have to take every effort to save the country, it is very easy to ruin the youth,” the bench had said.
The top court was hearing a plea arising out of a September 2020 order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that had disposed of a petition seeking a transfer of certain FIRs registered in Punjab in relation to the distillation of spurious liquor, its sale and inter-state smuggling to the CBI.
The high court had disposed of the plea following an assurance by the state’s counsel that the concerns raised by the petitioners will be duly dealt with and suitable action initiated.
The top court had earlier expressed dissatisfaction over the progress in investigating some cases of illicit liquor trade in Punjab and said the state is treating the issue with “kid gloves”.
The apex court, which observed that the poor were the worst sufferers of hooch tragedies, had directed the Punjab excise department to apprise it of the particulars of certain FIRs.
The petitioners had claimed in the high court that illegal distilleries and bottling plants have mushroomed in the state where the liquor mafia continues to thrive.
They has also referred to the August 2020 hooch tragedy in Punjab, in which more than 100 people had died.