Senior IAS proceeds on leave; Nitish twists prohibition law according to convenience

Bihar Prohibition Act, Nitish Kumar, Bihar me bahaar hai

K.K. Pathak (IAS:1990:BH), Principal Secretary of Bihar’s Registration, Excise and Prohibition Department, who authored Bihar’s prohibition law, has proceeded on leave and has asked the government to find a “suitable replacement” for him. Pathak is known as a no-nonsense bureaucrat who was expressly brought to Bihar last year to effectively implement the stringent prohibition law. He proceeded on leave on Wednesday – the day the Bihar Governor gave his assent to the new Bihar Prohibition and Excise Bill 2016 – in protest against the arrest of one of his officials in a frame-up by the police.

According to the Hindu newspaper, the incident that upset Pathak occurred on August 30 was this: acting on a tip-off, Nalanda’s excise sub-inspector Deepak Kumar raided the house of the ruling Janata Dal (United) alliance’s Harnaut block president Chandrajeet Kumar Sen alias Moti Singh and seized 168 bottles of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) from there. The JD(U) leader, whose wife is a mukhiya (village head) of the Lohra panchayat, was later arrested and sent to jail. But locals and party leaders protested against Mr. Sen’s arrest and pressured the administration to release him.

The newspaper reports the Nalanda incident took a curious turn after three days when the district police suddenly arrested the excise sub-inspector Deepak Kumar on charges of “conspiracy to book JD(U) leader Chandrajeet Sen in a false liquor case and also for misleading senior officials” and sent him to jail. Kumar was charged with conniving with a political rival of the JD(U) leader to “falsely implicate” him. He had received the tip-off on the presence of liquor bottles at the residence of JD(U) leader Sen from former mukhiya Sumendra Singh.

The report  said protesting the arrest of his department official, Pathak on Sunday had asked Nalanda district officials “not to interfere with the investigation as the matter was sub-judice”. “Prima facie the action taken by the excise official did not smack of any ulterior motive,” said Pathak, but his words went unheeded. Later, acting on a counter FIR by the Harnaut Block Development Officer (BDO), the district administration arrested the excise official and his informer Singh and sent them to jail.

However, this move by the district administration boomeranged when Assistant Chief Judicial Magistrate granted bail to both on Tuesday, while the bail plea of the JD(U) leader arrested for possessing liquor in his house, who had subsequently received a clean chit from the administration, was rejected, according to the report.

“My point was vindicated by the court…this is not the way to implement laws…in days to come, this Nalanda incident will set a precedent for implementing the prohibition laws in the state,” Pathak told Patna Hindu correspondent Amarnath Tewary.

The report points out that the Nalanda incident and its fallout have diminished the morale of excise department officials. In August, over 4,000 people were arrested and sent to jail for violating the new liquor law whereas till September 7 only 198 people have faced the same fate. “Yes, after the Nalanda incident, we’re feeling threatened about taking action against anyone. Who knows? He may turn out to be a ruling party leader,” said a department official, requesting anonymity.

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