The CBI on Friday raided multiple locations including the official residence of Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and premises linked to former Delhi Excise Commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna. The raids were conducted in the Delhi liquor scam, which the BJP has accused Sisodia of supervising as the minister in charge of executing the controversial excise policy.
The Aam Aadmi Party has reacted angrily to the CBI raids calling it a political vendetta by the BJP. Sisodia tweeted, “The CBI has come. They are welcome. We are extremely honest. Building the future of millions of children. It is very unfortunate that those who do good work in our country are harassed like this. That is why our country has not yet become number-1.”
Sisodia’s boss, Arvind Kejriwal, tweeted, “The whole world is discussing the education and health model of Delhi. They want to stop it. That is why the raids and arrests on Delhi’s health and education ministers. Whoever tried to do good work in 75 years was stopped. That’s why India was left behind. Will not let Delhi’s good works stop.”
Kejriwal was referring to the arrest of Health Minister Satyender Jain, who continues to be in the ED custody in a separate case of corruption.
What’s the controversy over Excise Policy?
The Delhi Excise Police was first proposed in 2020. The central idea behind implementing policy was to remove the Delhi government from the liquor business and hand over the business to private players. The AAP government said that its intention was to crack down the liquor mafia in line with its stand on corruption.
The new policy was implemented in November last year.
Under the new policy, the minimum age of buying and consumption of alcohol was brought down from 25 to 21. Shops were also allowed to offer discounts on liquor for the first time. This prompted government stores, wanting to clear their old stock, to offer buy-one-get-one discounts before the new policy kicked in.
The national capital was divided into 32 zones with each zone having 27 liquor vends.
A total of 849 new licences were given to private players through a public tendering process initiated by the Excise Department under the control of Sisodia.
What causes trouble for Sisodia is a report by a civil servant from his own government, who accused him of ‘deliberate and gross procedural lapses’ to provide post-tender ‘undue benefits to liquor licensees.’
The report by Delhi’s chief secretary, submitted to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, highlighted prima facie violations of several laws including GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR)-1993, Delhi Excise Act-2009, and Delhi Excise Rules-2010.
The report also stated that Sisodia gave undue favours in awarding the liquor licences by revising the rates of foreign liquor and removing the levy fee of Rs. 50 on imported beer. Sisodia is accused of making these and other changes in the Excise Policy without the approval of the LG. Under the rules, any changes made in the excise policy after its implementation has to be submitted to the cabinet before being sent to the LG for approval.
LG Saxena ordered a CBI probe in Delhi’s Excise Policy in July this year. The Delhi Chief Secretary also informed the Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing about the liquor scam and asked them to investigate.