Court asks NGO seeking SIT probe to approach Patna High Court

New Delhi : Refusing to entertain a PIL filed by an NGO seeking an independent probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into Chapra Hooch tragedy of Bihar, the Supreme Court asked it to approach Patna high court on the matter.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha asked the counsel of Bihar-based Aryavarta Mahasabha Foundation, an NGO to approach Patna high court, which, being well-versed with local situations can deal with it.

The bench observed that the High Courts concerned have wider power under Article 226 of the Constitution and the reliefs including SIT probe into the incident, national plan for curbing manufacture and trade of illicit liquor and compensation to the victims sought by the NGO can be dealt there.

While disposing of the PIL, the bench further said that it was granting the NGO liberty to approach the High Court concerned for reliefs sought by it.

Through the PIL, the petitioner besides seeking SIT probe into the hooch tragedy had sought for a direction to Bihar government for compensating the victims family and for a multi pronged national action plan to curb the manufacturing, trading and sale of illicit liquor.

The petitioner tried to draw the attention of the court towards the hooch tragedies, pleaded that spurious liquor were more commonly sold in states that have imposed a full ban on liquor. It said currently four states - Gujarat, Nagaland, Bihar and Mizoram - have laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol and the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016 was enacted to enforce a complete prohibition.

The hooch tragedy in Chapra of Bihar on December 14 last year "caused a furore" in the country and it is not an isolated case but similar cases were reported from various States including Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh in recent years.

It further said that in February last year, the apex court had observed that trial courts in Bihar and the Patna High Court are being crowded by bail applications in matters under the 2016 Act ever since Bihar government prohibited liquor sales in the state in 2016.

It may be recalled that over 65 people died in a hooch tragedy in December last year in Chapra of Bihar.