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Jharkhand Governor returns Excise Amendment Bill as an attempt to protect officers

According to Governor Ramesh Bais, the amendments to the Jharkhand Excise (Amendment) Bill-2022 are intended to protect officers from criminal or unconstitutional activities. He returned the Bill for reconsideration. The government had sent the excise bill to the Governor for assent in August after the Jharkhand Assembly had passed it.

Following three months of deliberation, the Governor sent the Bill back on Tuesday (November 22). He directed the government to review the provisions in different states and obtain the views of the revenue council. File notes indicate that liquor in the state is sold through shops operated by agencies selected by the Jharkhand State Beverage Corporation Limited. These agencies’ accountability has been fixed in case of any wrongdoing or illegal acts. Still, the notings said that the Corporation or the Excise Department officials had been left out of it.

With the amendments in the new Bill, only the workers who run the shops will be responsible. Although the entire responsibility rests with these agencies, the corporation needs to monitor the activities as well… This arrangement is seen as an attempt to protect criminal or unconstitutional activities of officials of the corporation and the agencies,” the Governor stated in the file notes.

As part of the amended Bill, the Governor had also painted a picture of increased revenue, which, he believes, was not the case. According to a department spokesperson, the department had promised that it would increase revenue following the implementation of the excise policy; however, it has been observed that revenue has declined in the first six months. There will be less monitoring, and illegal acts will be encouraged because officers and employees of the Corporation and the Department are not directly accountable. It has also been suggested that revenue may decrease as well.

The Governor also said the amended Bill allows officers to let people go on a personal bond if they are found to possess 20 litres of alcohol. The provision appears to imply that anyone can have a stock of 20 litres of liquor, which is unacceptable, said Bais.

Before this Bill, Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais had returned three bills since taking office in July last year. The Jharkhand Finance (Amendment Bill)-2021 has been replaced twice, citing defects. Mob Violence and Mob Lynching Bill-2021, and Pandit Raghunath Murmu Tribal University Bill-2021, are the other two bills. Only one of the three bills returned to the Governor was finally approved.

Battle of the tugs

Amid the ongoing tussle between Governor Ramesh Bais and Chief Minister Hemant Soren over the threat of disqualification as a Member of Parliament, the excise bill rebounding from the Raj Bhavan is accompanied by the purported Election Commission advisory to Bais on August 25 regarding an alleged office-of-profit lease case involving stone mining. Although Soren repeatedly requested that the advisory be made public, the Governor has not. Since taking office in July last year, Bais returned three bills.

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