Delhi Deputy Chief minister Manish Sisodia found himself under the lens of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with the implementation of the Delhi government’s New Excise Policy 2021-22 in April 2021.
While the old licensees complained about not getting the licence under the new policy, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blamed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for opening shops in every corner of the union territory.
The principal opposition party in Delhi also claimed that AAP had distributed the licences to their favourite vendors. The BJP also made multiple representations to the Delhi Lieutenant Governor, highlighting the irregularities in the liquor policy.
After his appointment as Lieutenant Governor on May 26, 2022, Vinai Kumar Saxena asked chief secretary Naresh Kumar to conduct an internal inquiry. LG Saxena asked Kumar to submit a detailed report about the liquor policy and distribution of the license.
After the report came out last month, LG Saxena recommended a CBI probe against Sisodia and some officers of the excise department in a letter on July 21.
Subsequently, the LG, on August 6, also ordered a vigilance inquiry into the matter and ordered the suspension of 11 officers, including the then excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna and deputy commissioner Anand Kumar Tiwari.
What are the allegations against Sisodia and his 11 officers?
a) The excise department, under direct orders of Manish Sisodia, allowed a waiver of ₹144.36 crore, singularly to the liquor cartel, on the tendered licence fee under the excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic’.
b) Deputy Chief minister Manish Sisodia, along with civil servants and private individuals, made roughshod decisions by tinkering with the policy to benefit liquor licensees.
c) Sisodia got the Cabinet to take a decision authorising him to make minor changes within the overall framework of the policy in the interest of its implementation.
According to the note to CBI, LG Saxena stated, “Excise Policy in question was opposed by civil society, religious groups, educational institutions, parents’ bodies and the opposition alike, was brought in the middle of the deadly Delta wave of the COVID pandemic vide a Kejriwal-headed cabinet decision on April 15, 2021, and a subsequent Cabinet decision on May 21, 2021.”
“It was done so with the sole aim of benefiting private liquor barons in lieu of financial benefits to individuals at the highest echelons of the government leading up to the Minister in charge of Excise and Finance, Manish Sisodia,” it said.
“It is pertinent to note that even as migrants were leaving the city due to lack of basic subsistence income, street vendors were facing a challenge to their livelihood, dhabas, restaurants, hotels, gyms, schools and all other business establishments were facing closure, the Excise Department, under direct orders of Manish Sisodia decided to ‘allow a waiver of ₹144.36 crores singularly to the liquor cartel, on the tendered license fee under the excuse of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the note stated.
“While people were dying, livelihoods collapsing, businesses shutting down that could have been helped by giving financial assistance, all that the Kejriwal government had in mind was benefiting merchants of alcohol in lieu of kick-backs and commissions,” LG Saxena said in the note.
“Even as the city, as indeed the country, was reeling under the severe mal-effects of the delta wave, a government that was busy blaming all and sundry for all its failings with the help of full-page advertisements, was busy setting up a nefarious mechanism for the personal aggrandisement of its leaders,” he said.
“It involved an enabling nexus of private individuals, civil servants and Deputy Chief minister Manish Sisodia, who made roughshod decisions by tinkering with the policy to benefit liquor licensees in total disregard of due process, rules and regulations.
“Being run all this while under the full political patronage of Arvind Kejriwal, the decisions in question were taken at the level of the Minister-in-charge, Manish Sisodia, who also holds the Excise portfolio, without even taking the Cabinet into confidence,” LG Saxena wrote in the note.
“Subsequently, in a hoodwinking hogwash, Sisodia got the Cabinet to take a decision authorising him to make ‘minor changes within the overall framework of the policy in the interest of its implementation’. However, despite this cabinet decision being flagged negatively by the then LG and a subsequent cabinet decision withdrawing its earlier decision of ‘authorizing’ Sisodia on May 21, the decisions under question continued to be brazenly implemented by the Excise Department solely on the approval of Sisodia,” LG Saxena pointed out in the note.
“When it became evident that the blatant hoax being run was about to be called out in light of inquiries and the note from the Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister under Rule 57, the illegal decisions taken in the past were attempted to be legalised by getting the stamp of a post facto Cabinet decision as recently as July 14, 2022, which in itself was in violation of laid down rules and procedures,” LG said in the note.