Punjab’s illicit liquor issue is being treated with ‘kid gloves’ by the Supreme Court

Punjab's illicit liquor issue is being treated with 'kid gloves' by the Supreme Court
Punjab's illicit liquor issue is being treated with 'kid gloves' by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday criticized Punjab for treating the illicit liquor trade issue with “kid gloves” after it expressed dissatisfaction with the progress in the investigation.

An MR Shah-led bench directed the Punjab Excise Department to inform it of certain FIRs lodged in the state, asking: “Who is the victim of a hooch tragedy?”? Whiskey is not for those who can afford it. In a hearing on a petition against a September 2020 order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court disposing of a petition seeking transfer of some FIRs registered in Punjab concerning alleged interstate smuggling and sale of spurious liquor to the Central Bureau of Investigation, the judges stated, “Common people and the downtrodden are the sufferers…Take this very seriously.”

After the state assured the HC that the petitioners’ concerns would be addressed and appropriate action taken, if necessary, the HC dismissed the petition. However, the top court was unsatisfied. In its statement, the Bench said, “There does not appear to have been any serious efforts made to reach the real culprits involved in manufacturing and transporting illegal liquor…You are treating it like a kid.”. The top court posted the matter for further hearing on December 5 in order to get an affidavit listing the distilleries whose licenses had been revoked or penalties levied, as well as the specific allegations made in these FIRs.

In his affidavit, advocate Prashant Bhushan stated that the Excise Department had taken action against certain distilleries, but only petty labourers were charged and no politician or police official had been charged.

The apex court bench noted that a status report had been filed regarding 13 FIRs, and expressed disappointment with the investigation’s progress.