CBI raids Sisodia's residence in excise policy case, Delhi minister cries foul
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted in support of Manish Sisodia saying nothing will come out of the raids
A month after lieutenant governor VK Saxena recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Delhi government's excise policy, the federal agency on Friday raided the residence of deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and 20 other premises after registering a case.
People familiar with the matter said a regular case (First Information Report) has been registered naming Sisodia, former excise commissioner Arav Gopi Krishna, among others. They added the raids were going on at 21 premises across seven states and union territories.
Sisodia tweeted about the raids saying he welcomes them but added it is unfortunate that people "doing honest work are being harassed." chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted in support saying "nothing will come out of it".
Saxena sent a complaint to the CBI to look into several procedures that were allegedly tweaked to benefit private liquor barons and individuals.
Sisodia, who is also the excise minister in the Aam Aadmi Party government, steered the 2021-22 excise policy introduced in November 2021. The policy overhauled the Capital's liquor market and fetched the state government ₹8,919.59 crore or close to 27% higher than the base price set for licence bids. It was aimed at making the process of purchasing liquor more consumer-friendly.
The complaint was based on chief secretary Naresh Kumar's report on July 8, which referred to benefitting of private liquor barons "in lieu of financial benefits to individuals at the highest level leading up to the minister in charge of excise and finance".
The issues included a refund of ₹30 crore to a bidder, a tweak in the calculation of a levy on imported beer, the purported relaxations in provisions in tender documents for private retail licensees, the waiving off of ₹144.36 crore of licence fee due to the pandemic lockdown, and allowing bid winners to open alternate vends.
On July 5, Kejriwal referred to the investigations and actions of central government against AAP leaders and alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was trying to arrest Sisodia by the end of August.
Kejriwal on Friday said the CBI raid at his junior colleague's house was the result of their good performance which is being appreciated globally.He said there were CBI raids before and nothing will come this time as well.
"The day Delhi's Education model was appreciated and Manish Sisodia's photo appeared on the front page of America's biggest newspaper NYT, the Centre sent CBI at the residence of Manish."CBI is welcome. Will extend full cooperation. Earlier also there were raid and probe. Nothing came out. Nothing will come out now also," Kejriwal tweeted.
Kumar's report claimed that the new policy appeared to violate the Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR) 1993 of the Government of NCT of Delhi Act. It said the violations were indicative of financial quid pro quo at top political levels, wherein major decisions were taken and actions were executed in violation of statutory provisions.
Kumar is empowered under the ToBR 1993 to flag any deviation from laid down procedures to the lieutenant governor and the chief minister. His report on the alleged irregularities in the Delhi Excise policy 2021-22 was sent to Kejriwal as well.
Union minister Anurag Thakur hit out at AAP and said this is not the first case of corruption against the party. "There has been huge corruption..." He asked Kejriwal to stop treating people as fools. "The Delhi chief minister did not even suspend [minister] Satyendar Jain when he was arrested. The real face of AAP, Kejriwal, and Manish Sisodia has come in front of the public," he said.
The Enforcement Directorate in May arrested Delhi's health minister Jain in connection with a money laundering case against him.