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Patna High Court sets aside dismissal of govt employee in dry Bihar, says breath analyzer test not conclusive proof of alcohol consumption

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By Alok Mohit

PATNA: In a significant ruling, the Patna High Court has quashed the dismissal of a government employee who was accused of consuming alcohol in violation of Bihar’s prohibition laws.

The case involved Prabhakar Kumar Singh, a clerk formerly posted at the sub-divisional office in Nirmali, Supaul district. Singh was arrested on February 5, 2018, for allegedly contravening the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016. Following his arrest, he was suspended from service and later dismissed after a departmental inquiry.

In the judgment delivered on June 19, Justice Bibek Chaudhuri found that the “disciplinary authority” had erred in relying solely on a breath analyzer test to conclude that the employee had consumed alcohol. The court cited a 1971 Supreme Court ruling which held that breath analyzer results were not conclusive proof of alcohol consumption.

“The Supreme Court held that no conclusion with regard to consumption of alcohol by a person can be made on the facts that the appellant’s breathe was smelling of alcohol, that his gait was unsteady, that his speech was incoherent and that his pupils were dilated,” he said.

The judge said, “Consumption of alcohol can only be ascertained by way of blood and urine test of the person suspected to have consumed alcohol.”

In Singh’s case, no such tests were conducted, the said while observing that there were no allegations of unsteady gait, incoherent speech, or dilated pupils at the time of Singh’s arrest – factors that could indicate intoxication.

Justice Chaudhuri set aside both the dismissal order issued by the Supaul district magistrate on January 15, 2020, and the subsequent rejection of Singh’s appeal by the divisional commissioner.

The case was originally filed by Singh’s wife, Manju Devi, after his death, seeking his reinstatement and associated benefits. The petitioner had argued that the evidence against her husband was insufficient and that the disciplinary authority did not consider proper medical examination results to ascertain alcohol consumption accurately.

  • The author Alok Mohit is former senior News Editor of Hindustan Times Patna and Hindustan Times, Chandigarh editions.

 

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