Liquor ban applicable to Bihar bureaucrats and judicial officers, even if they are outside state

The Supreme Court on Monday provided relief to several liquor manufacturers of Bihar by extending the time limit for disposing old stocks from May 31 to July 31.

Patna, Feb 16: Bihar bureaucrats and judicial officers cannot consume liquor or any intoxicating substance even when outside the state, which is under total prohibition, and would face departmental proceedings if they do so.

The state cabinet yesterday issued fresh conduct rules for government servants – right from Group A to Group D – and judicial officers in a bid to tighten the enforcement of the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016.

The cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Nitish Kumar approved the Bihar Judicial Officers Conduct Rules, 2017, and amended the Bihar Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1976, for this purpose.

Principal secretary, cabinet secretariat, Brajesh Mehrotra said Patna High Court had sent a proposal for the Bihar Judicial Officers Conduct Rules, 2017, which had been approved.

“Previously there was no rule for judicial officers with regard to consumption of intoxicating drinks or drugs. Now as per the conduct rules approved today they will have to strictly abide by the prohibition rules enforced in the state in any area, wherever they are,” Mehrotra said.

Similarly, the amendment in the conduct rules for government servants stipulates that he or she will have to strictly adhere to the ban on consumption of liquor and other intoxicating beverages or drugs in any area they might be present at any point of time.

Previously, the conduct rules for government servants laid down that they cannot consume intoxicants while on duty, or could not be found intoxicated at a public place, or consume such substances in public across the state. Now the ban will apply even when they are outside Bihar.

The amended service conduct rules would be applicable to IAS, IPS or other officials on deputation to the Centre, any other state, or even outside the country.

Joint secretary, general administration, Keshav Kumar Singh told media that if government servants are found to have consumed liquor or any intoxicant outside the state, then proceedings would be conducted by the department he or she is attached to.

The appointing authority of the charged government employee will take a suitable decision on the basis of evidence and recommend punishment ranging from salary cuts, stopping of increments and demotion to suspension and even dismissal from service.

“The Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016 is in effect only within the boundaries of Bihar and not outside. We cannot keep a watch on government servants in the normal course if they go out of the state. The liquor ban law cannot be imposed on the person,” Singh said.

“However, if there is any complaint, case or evidence against him that he consumed liquor during his visit to any other state or even outside the country, then the amended conduct rules would be imposed on him and proceedings would be started,” Singh added.

Legal experts termed the new conduct rules “debatable” but accepted that it was within the rights of the executive and the legislature to impose them.

Patna High Court advocate Vindhyachal Singh said the rationale behind such a rule could be that since the government has made consumption of liquor inside the state illegal, if any government or judicial official does so outside then “it would be considered unbecoming of him or bad conduct”.

“Violating conduct rules is not a penal offence, but departmental proceedings and executive action could be taken against persons who violate them,” he said, adding that the amended rules could always be challenged in the courts.