In a setback to former Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia, a Delhi court on Monday extended the judicial custody of the AAP leader till 17 April. This came days after a special judge described Sisodia as the ‘architect’ of the alleged liquor scam.
Judge M K Nagpal had on Friday rejected Sisodia’s bail plea saying that he was ‘prima facie the architect’ and played the “most important and vital role” in the alleged scam. According to news agency PTI, the judge had also added that Sisodia was the main person in the criminal conspiracy behind the alleged payment of advance kickbacks of around Rs 90-100 crore, meant for him and his colleagues in the Delhi government.
The judge on Monday passed the order extending Sisodia’s judicial custody after the CBI told the court that the investigation was at a crucial stage in the corruption case linked to the scam.
Sisodia was arrested on 26 February in the liquor scam case. He was later removed as the deputy chief minister of Delhi by the AAP government headed by Arvind Kejriwal.
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.