| British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a question and answer session at a pub in England. (File picture)
New Delhi, May 8: The rule banning bureaucrats from drinking at public places ' hotels, bars and restaurants ' is being knocked down.
As the government reviews conduct rules for members of all-India services, there is unanimity that this clause ' which seeks to restrict civil servants to drinking at home or private functions ' be dropped.
The ban has never worried the bureaucrats much and many have trouble recalling the provision though it has existed in the rulebook for over three decades. The reason is that even the few times that the political leadership tried to enforce it, the ban remained largely on paper.
It was the Indira Gandhi government that, in August 1974, incorporated the clause into the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968. Rule 20 (bb) directs members of the services ' the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Forest Service and the Indian Engineering Service ' to 'not consume any intoxicating drink or drug in a public place'.
The Janata government under pro-prohibition Morarji Desai tried hard to enforce the clause. In January 1978, it extended the ban to official parties hosted by the government or semi-government organisations in India and abroad.
Two years earlier, the personnel and administrative reforms department in the Indira Gandhi government had sent out a directive asking officials to keep a watch on the conduct of their colleagues and report violations of the ban. The disciplinary authorities were asked to 'take a very serious view of any violation' and 'not hesitate' to impose the severest punishment.
These efforts didnít meet with much success.
No one remembers when the order was last invoked. An IAS officer said he didnít even remember that the 'ludicrous' rule existed. An official in the department of personnel and training said one of his seniors had to be reminded of this provision at a meeting.
Now, with this rule likely to be consigned to history when the review of the conduct rules is complete, officials said the Centre is likely to settle for the recommendation by a committee that civil servants be allowed to drink in moderation but not appear in public 'in an inebriated condition'.
The panel has been asked to review the conduct rules in keeping with the changing times. It has stuck to the ban on the bureaucracy canvassing or using influence in elections to the legislature as well as at those in universities and other educational institutions.
The committee has also suggested that publication of any article in a journal brought out by a political party should be construed as assisting a political activity and, therefore, be banned.