On the basis of a report from the Delhi Chief Secretary and in accordance with Rule 57 of the ToBR 1993, which requires the Chief Secretary to notify the Lt. Governor and the chief minister of any deviation from established procedures, the Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena ordered an investigation into the contentious Delhi Excise Policy 2021–22 of the Arvind Kejriwal government.
The Kejriwal government’s Delhi Excise Policy 2021–22 has allegedly been used to grant unauthorised financial favours to liquor licensees long after the tenders had been appointed, causing excessive losses to the exchequer.
A report from the Chief Secretary of Delhi dated July 8, 2022, found preliminary evidence of violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, the Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR) 1993, and the Delhi Excise Act 2009. The Delhi Excise Rules 2010 and willful and flagrant procedural errors intended to give post-tender benefits to liquor licensees for the year 2021–2022, led to the recommendation for an investigation.
The Chief Secretary’s report, which was sent to both LG and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, states that there was “substantially financial quid pro quo at the top political level,” during which Manish Sisodia, the minister in charge of the excise department, made significant decisions and had them carried out that “had huge financial implications” and were against the law and the notified excise policy.
The report by the Chief Secretary claimed that Sisodia “also allegedly extended undue financial favours to the liquor licensees much after the tenders had been awarded and thus caused huge losses to the ex-chequer.”
The controversial Excise Policy was implemented during the deadly Delta wave of the Covid pandemic and was opposed by civil society, religious organisations, educational institutions, Parents’ Bodies, and the opposition alike.
According to the Delhi Chief Secretary’s report, “it was done so with the sole intention 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 & Finance, Manish Sisodia.”
It is important to note that street vendors were struggling to make a living even as migrants were leaving the city due to a lack of basic subsistence income. All businesses, including dhabas, restaurants, hotels, gyms, and schools, faced closure. According to the report, the Excise Department decided, on Manish Sisodia’s direct orders, to waive the liquor cartel’s licence fee by Rs. 144.36 crores under the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kejriwal Lashed out at a Press Conference
The Aam Aadmi Party strongly disagreed with the LG’s action, calling it motivated and dictated by the Centre. At a press conference on Friday, Kejriwal exploded, claiming that, like Jain, his deputy Sisodia is being detained and “framed” by the CBI in a “fake case.”
In his defence of Sisodia, he asserted that the “fake case” would not hold up in court and that AAP leaders did not fear going to jail because they had committed no crimes.
Saurabh Bhardwaj, the chief spokesperson for the AAP, continued by alleging that the Centre ordered the CBI investigation in order to disadvantage the Kejriwal-led party ahead of the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
He added that the Centre will attempt to implicate more AAP ministers to confine the party to Delhi and Punjab amid Kejriwal’s growing popularity.
Meenakshi Lekhi, a senior member of the BJP, accused the AAP government of breaking the law in order to promote “cartelization” for the benefit of specific liquor companies in Delhi.