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CASE STUDY: Satvinder Singh Saluja & Ors. Vs. State of Bihar

Supreme court of India in a landmark judgment held that after the enforcement of Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, even a person consumes liquor outside the State of Bihar and enters into the territory of Bihar and is found drunk or in a state of drunkenness, he can be charged with offences under the said act.


Here is the entire case study:

Satvinder Singh Saluja vs. St. of Bihar
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Satvinder Singh Saluja & Ors v. State of Bihar[1]


COURT: Supreme Court of India

BENCH: Ashok Bhushan and K.M. Joseph, JJ.

DECIDED ON: 01.07.2019


BACKGROUND:

Vide the present appeal the Appellant approached the Supreme Court for quashing of criminal proceedings initiated under Section 53(a) of the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016. The appeal was filed challenging the order dated 16.02.2018 passed by the High Court of Patna vide which it dismissed the application of Appellants who had approached the Court under Section 482 of CrPC[2]. The appellant filed the said application for quashing the order dated 30.07.2016 passed by the Judicial Magistrate vide which Judicial Magistrate took cognizance of the offence punishable under S. 53(a) of the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016[3].


FACTS OF THE CASE:

On 25.06.2016 the Appellants were travelling from State of Jharkhand to the State of Bihar in their private vehicle. As a routine vehicle check-up, they were stopped by a Sub-inspector, Excise. On searching the vehicle, no incriminating material or excise article was found in the car, however, when breath analyser test was conducted on the Appellants,

certain amount of alcohol was found. Thereafter, the sub-inspector arrested the appellant and he remained in the judicial custody for two days. A charge-sheet in consequence of the said offence was filed by the Additional Inspector, Excise under Section 53(a) of Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016 and the Chief Judicial Magistrate took cognizance of the offence vide order dated 30.07.2016.


Section 53(a)[4] of Bihar Excise Act, 1915 provides for punishment on consumption of liquor in a public place or an unauthorized place.


CASE REFERRED:

Confederation of India Alcoholic Beverage Companies and Anr. v. Manoj Kumar &Ors.[5]

Acts/Rules/Orders:

Bihar Excise Act, 1915 –Section 2 (17), Section 19(4);

Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016 – Section 2(17A)/ 15C/ 19(4)/ 53;

Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 –Section 2 (53)/ 2(54)/ 37/ 37(b);

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) – Section 482;

ISSUES:

1. Whether the State prohibits possession and consumption of any intoxicant in a 'private conveyance'?


2. Whether a private vehicle on a public road will fall within the definition of ‘public place’ under Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED:

Learned Counsel for the Appellants submitted that to be an offence under Section 53(a) of the Bihar Excise Act, 1915[6], there must be ‘consumption of alcohol or intoxicants’ in a ‘public place’ ‘inside the State of Bihar’. The Appellants were travelling in their ‘private vehicle’ from the State of Jharkhand to the State of Bihar. The law in force at the time of incident did not include ‘private conveyance’ under the definition of ‘public place’ as per Section 2 (17) of the Bihar Excise Act, 1915, in force.


Any transport, whether public or private, was included in the definition of ‘public place’ under the provision of Section 2(54) of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 which was not in force at the time of incident. On searching the vehicle, no liquor bottles or any other incriminating materials were found which is also mentioned in the First Information Report.


Similarly, Section 37 of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 is not applicable, as there was no such offence in S. 53 of the Bihar Excise Act, 1915, in force at that time. The word 'consumed' used in S. 53 of the Bihar Excise Act, 1915, shall be interpreted in the present continuous tense. Hence, the Chief Judicial Magistrate committed an error in taking cognizance of the offence.


Learned Counsel for the State of Bihar submitted that though at the time of incidence, the only law in force was the Bihar Excise Act, 1915, but there existed a notification of the State Government dated 05.04.2016, consumption of alcohol or intoxicant in ‘public place’ was prohibited in the entire State of Bihar. The said notification, after being challenged[7] in HC Patna, was upheld which restored back the legal position as exists after the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016.

The vehicle of the Appellants was intercepted at a public road; hence, the Appellants are not correct in their submission that they were not intercepted at a public place. The ingredients of Section 53(a) of the Bihar Excise Act, 1915 are fully satisfied. The Chief Judicial Magistrate in taking cognizance on the FIR has not committed any error.


OBSERVATION OF COURT/ JUDGMENT:

According to Section 53 (a) of the Bihar Excise Act, 1925, the action of consumption of liquor has to happen within the State of Bihar. However, after the enforcement of Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, even a person consumes liquor outside the State of Bihar and enters into the territory of Bihar and is found drunk or in a state of drunkenness, can be charged with offences under Section 37(b).


The Court could not take a decision retrospectively, based on the laws that came after the incident took place. Hence, providing that Appellants shall be at liberty to file an application for discharge before the learned Magistrate, who shall decide the said application taking into consideration the materials on record, in accordance with law, the Court disposed off the appeal. [8]

RATIO DECIDENDI:

The only statute in force at the time of incident, i.e., on 25.06.2016, was the Bihar Excise Act, 1915. Considering the submissions of the learned counsels of both the side, the Court observed that a private conveyance cannot be excluded from the definition of 'public place' even though the ‘private vehicle’ was not present in the definition of 'public place' and was introduced by Section 2(17A) by Amendment Act, 2016. Hence, a private vehicle on public road shall fall within the definition of ‘public place’ under Bihar Excise Act, 1915.


The Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016, changed the definition of the word 'place' and ‘public place’. As per Section 2(53) of the Act ‘place’ includes building, house, shop, boat, booth, vessel, raft, vehicle, conveyance or tent enclosure; and as per Section 2(54) ‘Public Place’ means any place to which public has access whether as a matter of right or not and includes all places visited by public and also includes any open space or any transport, whether public or private;


In place of Section 53 of the Bihar Excise Act, 1915 which provided for penalty for consumption of liquor in public place, a new section, namely, Section 37 providing for 'penalty for consumption of liquor' has been introduced.


The Court noticed that “definition of 'place' as contained in Bihar Excise Act, 1915, Section 2 (17) is the inclusive definition which specifically includes vehicle. When word 'place' includes vehicle the words 'public place' have to be interpreted in the same light. What Section 2(17A) defines is that a 'public place' means any place to which public have access, whether as a matter of right or not and includes all places visited by general public and also includes any open space. The key words are 'any place to which public have access', which phrase is further qualified by phrase whether as a matter of right or not. Whether public have access to private vehicle or not is a question to be answered.”[9]

“The private vehicle of the Appellants was intercepted when it was on the public road. When private vehicle is passing through a public road it cannot be accepted that public have no access. It is true that public may not have access to private vehicle as matter of right but definitely public have opportunity to approach the private vehicle while it is on the public road.”[10] Hence, the vehicle in which Appellants are travelling is well covered under ‘public place’.


The Court also noted that under Section19 (4) a notification dated 05.04.2016 was issued by the State of Bihar imposing total prohibition on foreign liquor. By notification dated 01.04.2016 prohibition on country liquor was already enforced.


On the question whether the offence under Section 53(a) of the Bihar Excise Act, 1915, can be committed only when Appellant consumes liquor in a public place, the words 'consumes liquor' have to be given meaning and substance for constituting the offence. “The word 'consumes' is a verb transitive.”[11] “When the word 'consumes' is followed by liquor, the action denoted by verb passes over from the doer to object i.e., liquor to constitute the offences within the meaning of Section 53(a). The action of consumption of liquor has to happen within the State of Bihar. A person who consumes liquor in a different State cannot be fastened with a penalty under Section 53 (a) unless there is some evidence to prove that consumption of liquor by the Accused has taken place in the State of Bihar.” [12]


However, since the Respondent was not able to prove that the Appellant consumed liquor within the territorial jurisdiction of the State of Bihar, the Court gave him the benefit of the same and remanded the matter back to the magistrate.

[1] (2019) 7 SCC 89. [2]Section 482. Saving of inherent powers of High Court. Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. [3]The Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016, No. 03, Acts of State Legislature, Bihar, 2016(India). [4] Section 53: Penalty for consumption of liquor in public place - Whoever, in contravention of this Act or the rules, notification or order made there under-(a) consumes liquor in a public place or an unauthorized place; [5]2016(4) PLJR 369. [6]Bihar Excise Act, 1915. No. 02, Act of State Legislature, Bihar, 1915 (India). [7]Confederation of India Alcoholic Beverage Companies and Anr. v. Manoj Kumar & Ors. 2016(4) PLJR 369. [8](2019) 7 SCC 89, at Para 28. [9]Id. at Para 22. [10]Supra note 7, at Para 23. [11]Id. at Para 27. [12]Id. at Para 28.

Satvinder Singh Saluja vs. St. of Bihar
Download • 254KB