The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is likely to file a preliminary enquiry on Tuesday against unknown officials of the Delhi government as part of its probe into alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Arvind Kejriwal government’s excise policy.
Sources told News18 that the federal agency wants to know how the policy was formulated and on whose behalf was it allegedly influenced. The agency will also make its own assessment on the possible loss and benefit to individuals, if any, sources added.
Officials said the first preliminary enquiry into the case will fix the role of individuals after proper inquiry. “And if we find case, we will file an FIR,” an official told News18 on condition of anonymity.
The Excise Policy 2021-22 of the Delhi government has come under the scanner with Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena recommending a CBI probe into alleged violation of rules and procedural lapses in its implementation. The L-G has also directed the chief secretary to submit a report on the role of officers and civil servants in the alleged illegal formulation, amendments and implementation of the policy. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia is the minister in-charge of the Delhi government’s excise department.
The new excise policy was implemented from November 17 last year under which retail licences were given to private bidders for 849 vends across the city divided into 32 zones. The BJP and Congress had vociferously opposed the policy and lodged complaint with the L-G as well as central agencies for a probe into it.
Sisodia faces allegations of financial quid pro quo in executing major decisions around the excise policy which reportedly huge financial implications. According to reports, he is accused of extending undue financial favours to liquor licencees after the tenders had been awarded.
The Excise Department reportedly gave a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore to the licencees on the tendered licence fee citing the pandemic as an excuse. A PTI report said it also allegedly refunded earnest money of Rs 30 crore to the lowest bidder of the licence of Airport Zone, despite failing to obtain NOC from the airport authorities. Such a move violated Rule 48(11)(b) of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010, which stipulate that the successful bidder must complete all formalities for grant of licence, failing which all deposits made by him shall stand forfeited to the government.
Reports further say that under Sisodia, the excise department, in its November 8, 2021 order, revised the formula of calculation of rates of foreign liquor and removed the levy of import pass fee of Rs 50 per case on beer “without approval of the competent authority”, making it cheaper for retailers and causing loss of revenue to the state exchequer.
The AAP government is also accused of attempting to legalise “these illegal decisions” by getting the stamp of a post facto Cabinet decision as recently as on July 14, “which in itself was in violation of laid down rules and procedures”.
While the BJP and Congress have demanded Sisodia’s resignation over the case, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal has mounted a strong defence of his deputy. In a virtual press conference last week, Kejriwal alleged that the L-G’s recommendation is part of a political vendetta against the Aam Aadmi Party and speculated that Sisodia could be arrested soon.