Punjab Proposes Death Penalty for Makers of Illegal Liquor Linked to Fatalities
The Punjab government on Monday proposed introducing the death penalty for makers of any illegal liquor linked to fatalities. The move is a response to several deaths from consuming harmful, adulterated, homemade alcohol that occurred in the state last year.
The target is homemade and illegal liquor, the production of which does not comply with set standards, making it unfit for human consumption, as well as denatured alcohol, which is only suited to industrial use. Industrial alcohol is often used to increase the strength of local liquor prepared from natural ingredients such as coco-palm, rice, jaggery, mahuva, and more.
The government said in a release a systematic shift in dealing with deaths linked to the consumption of adulterated or illicit alcohol was needed. Instituting the death penalty will instill fear of law among illegal and adulterated alcohol makers, according to the release. Gujarat, a state which completely prohibits the sale of alcohol, introduced the death penalty for the sale of toxic alcohol in 2011.
But it’s questionable whether that will be the result. Research suggests death penalties don’t actually deter criminal activity. A study reported that 88% of criminologists say the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime, besides, violating the most fundamental human right—the right to life. “The death penalty is discriminatory,” according to Amnesty International. “It is often used against the most vulnerable in society, including the poor, ethnic and religious minorities, and people with mental disabilities.” In India, where the rate of wrongful convictions is on the rise and where the Supreme Court has admitted to wrongly sentencing at least 15 persons to death in the past 15 years, it is unclear how Punjab’s proposed amendment would provide justice.
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The proposal would amend Section 61-A in the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, to punish guilty manufacturers and sellers of illegal alcohol linked to fatalities with death or imprisonment for life. They may also be fined up to Rs 20 lakh in cases of death.
The bill also prescribes punishment of varying degrees when consuming illegal alcohol results in disability or other harm. The cabinet also plans to provide compensation to the kin of the deceased or injured person.
Last July, in the worst alcohol tragedy Punjab saw in over three decades, over 110 people died after consuming adulterated liquor in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, and Tarn Taran. The government, back then, had started mulling the death penalty for manufacturers and suppliers of such liquor.
Alcohol poisoning is common in India, as is the sale of adulterated, illegally homemade liquor. On Tuesday, four were killed after the consumption of illegal alcohol in Uttar Pradesh. Last month, Rajasthan saw the deaths of seven people after consuming spurious alcohol.
The bill will be introduced in the ongoing budget session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, according to a government release.