In a major escalation in the standoff between the Centre and Aam Aadmi Party, the Lt. Governor of Delhi V. K. Saxena on Friday recommended a CBI probe into the new Delhi Excise Policy implemented by the state government.
This action was taken after the Chief Secretary of Delhi government, Narendra Kumar, in his report to the L-G on July 8, pointed out to seven “deliberate and gross procedural lapses” which led to “undue benefits” for liquor licensees. The new Excise Policy for 2021-22 was implemented in November last year, under which retail licenses were given to 849 vendors to sell liquor across the capital.
The Lt. Governor, while recommending CBI probe, found “substantive indications” of “financial quid pro quo” between the ruling party and licensees. In the line of fire is Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister, who holds the Excise portfolio. Already, Health Minister Satyendar Jain is in jail in a money laundering case.
AAP supremo and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal lashed out at the BJP saying the case was “fake”, and Manish Sisodia “is an extremely honest patriot”. “The case made against him is totally false and baseless and there is not an iota of truth in the allegations”, Kejriwal said.
The chief minister did not reply to specific charges made by the Chief Secretary in his report to the L-G, and confined himself to firing political salvos at the BJP. He said, “I was told that they (BJP) wanted to arrest him and were searching for a false case to frame him”, Kejriwal said. Using harsh words he said, ‘Tum log (BJP) Savarkar ki aulaad (son) ho jisne Angrezon se maafi maangi, aur hum Bhagat Singh ki aulaad hain jo phansi pe latak gaye. Hum jail jaane se nahin darte (You are the sons of Savarkar who apologized to British rulers, and we are the sons of Bhagat Singh, who went to the gallows. We do not fear going to jail)”.
Kejriwal said, “BJP is targeting our party because ours is an honest party and BJP is trying to portray that we are as corrupt as them…They are throwing mud at us by levelling false charges to portray that we are as corrupt as them, but the world is not going to believe their lies.”
BJP leaders Meenakshi Lekhi, Adesh Gupta and Ramvir Singh Bidhuri in a joint press conference lashed out at Kejriwal, saying AAP government has promoted cartelisation to benefit liquor companies. New Delhi MP and Union Minister of State Meenakshi Lekhi alleged that a waiver of Rs 144.4 crore was given to liquor licensees and earnest money deposit of Rs 30 crore from one company was refunded without following rules and procedures. She also alleged that AAP government gave liquor licence to a blacklisted company for two out of the 32 zones in Delhi.
Lekhi said, “I do not know who will go to jail, but there are documents and signatures of people establishing their culpability in taking these questionable decisions. On October 21 last year, the excise department had given notices to companies that were given licences. But on July 14 this year, without a cabinet note, a rebate of Rs 144.4 crore was given to the same companies”.
BJP leaders alleged that all this happened at the instance of CM Kejriwal, who made arbitrary changes in the excise policy, took hasty decisions, and this could not have happened without quid pro quo with the vendors. BJP leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa alleged that Delhi cabinet approved the new excise policy in March last year. In April, a group of ministers made certain changes in the policy, and in the new policy implemented on November 17 last year, more than 600 government-run liquor vends were closed down, and Delhi was divided into 32 zones for distributing licenses to private vendors.
Initially, it was decided that manufacturers, distributors and retailers shall be different, and that a single company shall not be given licences for more than two zones. In practice, the Delhi government gave licences to a single company for five zones each. It was decided that earnest money would be seized if conditions are not fulfilled by vendors, but Manish Sisodia allegedly returned Rs 30 crore earnest money. Moreover, Rs 144 crores were waived off in the name of losses in sales due to Covid pandemic.
Sirsa, who has details of the irregularities that took place, alleged that Kejriwal government had given 12 per cent profit guarantee to distributors, out of which six per cent commission would have been taken in cash. He alleged that ‘one bottle free with one bottle sold’ offer was introduced in order to convert black money into white. Liquor companies, he said, used to deposit the fully money for two bottles sold in banks, but took money for a single bottle from consumers. The second bottle’s price was used to convert black money into white, Sirsa alleged.
In his report to the Lt. Governor, the chief secretary of Delhi government pointed out to certain procedural lapses. One, Refund of earnest money of Rs 30 crore to the lowest bidder for the licence for airport zone after it failed to obtain an NOC from authorities. As per Delhi Excise Rules, 2010, if the bidder fails to complete formalities, the earnest money stands forfeited.
Two, Revised formula of calculation of rates of foreign liquor and removed the levy of import pass fee of Rs50 per case on beer without approval of competent authority, causing loss of revenue to exchequer.
Three, Relaxed provisions of tender document to provide undue financial favours to L7Z (retail) licensees, instead of taking coercive action for default in payment of licence fee, interest and penalty. There are four other procedural lapses in the Chief Secretary’s report, which I shall not go into.
Kejriwal has said that the case will not stand in court, but he has not mentioned that his colleague Satyendar Jain went from lower court to High Court but could not get bail. Can he say that the judiciary is working against him and his party?
Kejriwal had given a character certificate to his ex-colleague Jitendra Tomar in the past, by saying that we got his degree checked, but later the University gave in writing that Tomar’s degree certificate was fake, and he went to jail. Kejriwal does not take Tomar’s name any more.
Kejriwal used to claim that he has picked ‘diamonds and jewels’ for his cabinet who are honest, but his minister Asim Ahmed Khan was caught taking Rs six lakhs bribe from a builder. When this was exposed, Kejriwal ordered CBI probe and gave himself a certificate of honesty.
Another colleague Sandeep Kumar was Women and Child Development Minister. He was caught on camera engaged in sex with women in exchange for ration cards.
Kejriwal now says that it does not matter even if Sisodia goes to jail and “BJP cannot cow us down”. But the fact of the matter is this: neither Kejriwal nor his ministers and colleagues have replied to specific charges made in the chief secretary’s report. AAP leaders are only lashing out at BJP and giving themselves certificates of honesty. All these lofty dialogues may be good for atmospherics, but these will not work in courts. The courts will go through the specific charges made in the report, and in the CBI chargesheet, if ever it is filed.
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