ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Death by Excise Policing

The Widening Web of Carcerality in India

A recent amendment to the Madhya Pradesh Excise Act introduces death penalty for spurious liquor offences. Given the casteist nature of policing, this amendment renders the Vimukta communities, already over-represented in the criminal justice system, more vulnerable to police abuse.


The authors would like to thank Kanishka Singh for his research support with the article.

The Madhya Pradesh (MP) Excise Act, 1915 (“the Act”) that ensures state monopoly on liquor, recei­ved renewed political succour in August 2021. Through an amendment to Section 49-A, the penalty within this section is enhanced and makes it punishable by death and a fine not less than `20 lakh for offences related to liquor unfit for human consumption, also known as “spurious liquor”—when such liquor causes death in a repeat offence. MP considers excise policing a big part of their responsibility to maintain law and order, given that a significant number of arrests made in the state are under this legislation. The Act aids the state in maintaining its monopoly on the sale of liquor through a web of criminal provisions that penalise import, export, sale, possession, manufacture, and transport of liquor without licence from the state. This criminalisation is now sought to be bolstered by the death penalty.

The amendment was introduced in the legislative assembly in the imme­diate aftermath of several deaths due to consumption of spurious liquor in Indore and Mandsaur earlier in 2021, thereby resorting to the harshest punishment to “curb the menace of sale of spurious liquor” (Livemint 2021). In addition to this augmentation, the amendment has also increased the scope of punishment for several other offences and introduced the concept of “heritage liquor” to the state. The amendment is an attempt to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, it projects that the enhanced punishments will have a deterrent effect on the illegal liquor trade in MP, and on the other, it seeks to bolster the state’s coffers by bringing the sale of mahua underneath its revenue umbrella.

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Updated On : 15th Nov, 2021
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