OUR colleague Mubarak Habib of Al-Qabas newspaper is in charge of writing about the verdicts and decisions issued by the courts and the prosecution. He works with tremendous energy and great vigor as well as with clear awareness of the legal and constitutional aspects.
Being a lawyer and follower of the legal issues written by our colleague Mubarak, I was quite surprised by a news report that was published on the front page of Al-Qabas newspaper last Sunday. It concerned the verdict issued by the Court of Cassation to acquit some alcoholics.
Referring the verdict as legislative vacuum, he had called on members of Parliament’s Negative Phenomena Committee to intervene urgently in filling that legislative vacuum!
To Brother Mubarak, we say the Penal Code, in which the ban on sale of liquor was approved in the 1960s, has proven to be a failure, as peddling of drugs (as an alternative to liquor) has reached astronomically high and terrifying levels, especially among youths and expatriates with limited incomes.
The traders and sellers of liquor are still amassing money and will not call for bankruptcy any time soon. In fact, the price of their stock has increased tenfold the real value or the value in the Gulf and Arab countries!
The ban on consumption of liquor, as demanded by some, has opened a wide evil door on the personal freedom of an individual. The police and judicial officers will have the right to break into any private dwelling on the grounds of investigations over allegations against the owner for drinking liquor while he is in the comfort of his home and watching boring Kuwait TV programs.
Provisions of the current Penal Code only prohibit “supply and import of liquor, and manufacturing with the intention of trading or drinking liquor or consuming intoxicants” (Article 206). It also stipulates that those who buy, possess, concede or accept concession for any form of trade, marketing or consumption of liquor will be punished (Article 206 repeated). The law shall also punish those who consume liquor or any intoxicant in public places, as well as those who carry liquor or intoxicants to the places mentioned for people to consume them (Article 206 repeated).
Based on this clear text, which does not leave anything uncovered and includes appropriate punishments, how do we expect the Court of Cassation, which is the highest court of law in Kuwait, to neglect this by punishing consumers not included in all forms stipulated in the law? You are well aware of the legal principle “No punishment or penalty without a text”!
We did not write this to demand permission for circulating liquor freely like most of the countries across the world. People who approve this sinful act will be responsible for not abiding by the ban, which is violated by most of the countries across the world including some Islamic nations. This is in addition to the arguments and disagreements among scholars over the issue.
There are many people living among us whose cultures and religions are not against consumption of liquor. So we can imagine how controversial it is when the law deprives them of it.
It would have been better if our friend, the judicial drafter, had urged the lawmakers to cover the legal inadequacy by punishing those who issue takfir and hatred statements at will. Several of those people have been declared innocent at Kuwaiti courts, citing nonexistence of clear legal text to criminalize their disgusting statements. This is the real legal inadequacy, if we are serious.
By Ali Al-Baghli
Former Minister of Oil