Delhi Excise Policy row: CBI to summon 11 babus caught in liquor scam web, Centre suspends senior bureaucrats

The FIR alleged that the liquor barons were in close contact with accused public servants and were regularly lining their pockets.
Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia at a press conference at his residence, in New Delhi, Monday, Aug 22, 2022. (Photo | PTI)
Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia at a press conference at his residence, in New Delhi, Monday, Aug 22, 2022. (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: After questioning four liquor barons and middlemen over the past few days, the CBI is expected to summon 11 bureaucrats against whom action was recommended last week by Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena in connection with the Delhi liquor policy scam.

All 11 officers are part of the Delhi excise department. Three of them Arva Gopi Krishna, the then Commissioner (Excise), Anand Tiwari, the then Deputy Commissioner (Excise), and Pankaj Bhatnagar, Assistant Commissioner (Excise) figure in the CBI’s first information report as accused in the scam. Krishna and Tiwari were suspended by the Union home ministry on Monday.

The FIR alleged that the liquor barons were in close contact with accused public servants and were regularly lining their pockets.

The eight others suspended are assistant commissioners Narinder Singh and Neeraj Gupta, section officers Kuljeet Singh, Subhash Ranjan and Suman and dealing hands Satya Brat Bhargav, Sachin Solanki and Gaurav Mann.

They have not been named in the case yet.

The L-G had found serious lapses on the part of the officers in the implementation of the excise policy, including finalising the tender and extending benefits to select vendors.

The initial probe found blatant violation of procedures, deliberate misinterpretation and subversion of basic government financial rules to provide benefit to licencees for alleged quid pro quo.

Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar had submitted a report to the L-G alleging corruption and violation of business rules by the bureaucrats in the rollout of the new excise policy. The report alleged that undue benefits were provided to liquor vend licencees in lieu of kickbacks and commissions.

These officers did not inform the authority concerned despite being aware of “illegal activities” and changes made to the policy by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Besides, the ministry modified the excise policy without seeking the opinion of the L-G.

The suspension order of the two senior IAS officials came after they were named in the FIR filed by the CBI in the ongoing probe, officials said.

While Krishna is a 2012 batch Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territories (AGMUT) cadre officer, Tiwari is a 2003 Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu Civil Service (DANICS) cadre officer.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia is among the 15 individuals and entities named in the FIR registered by the CBI in connection with alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Delhi government's Excise Policy 2021-22.

The agency on Friday carried out searches at 31 places including Sisodia's residence and premises of some bureaucrats, including Excise Commissioner Krishna and two other Excise Department officials, and businessmen.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said this means the CBI-ED raids were attempts to topple his government while asserting that "Operation Lotus" proved to be a failure in the national capital.

Earlier in the day, Sisodia claimed that he was approached by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with an offer that all cases against him will be closed if he joined the saffron party.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader is among the 15 people and entities named in an FIR lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Delhi excise policy.

"I have received a message from the BJP -- leave the AAP and join the BJP. We will ensure that all cases lodged by the CBI and the ED against you are closed."

"My reply to the BJP -- I am a descendant of Maharana Pratap and a Rajput. I am ready to get beheaded but can never bow down before conspirators and corrupt people. All the cases against me are false. Do whatever you want to do," Sisodia said in a tweet in Hindi.

In response to Sisodia's tweet, Kejriwal said: "It means that the CBI and ED raids have nothing to do with the liquor policy and corruption? These raids were carried out only to topple the AAP government in Delhi? Like they have done in other states."

Later, he tweeted: "Operation Lotus fails in Delhi."

Kejriwal and Sisodia are currently in Gujarat to strengthen the AAP's base there in the run-up to the state Assembly polls scheduled later this year.

Delhi BJP on Monday staged a protest near Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence in Civil Lines area here against the alleged irregularities in the AAP government's excise policy.

Attending the protest, Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta said Kejriwal should expel Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia from his Cabinet as he is "accused number one" in the case registered by the CBI.

"Kejriwal is the kingpin of the whole scam in which liquor mafia was allowed to loot at the expense of state exchequer," he alleged.

Gupta said Delhi BJP workers will go door-to-door across the city to tell the people about the "corruption and excise scam" committed by the Kejriwal government.

A probe is underway by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged irregularities in the Delhi government's Excise Policy 2021-22.

The agency has filed a FIR against 13 people and two companies in connection with the alleged violations of rules and procedural lapses in the implementation of the policy.

The CBI had raided the residence of Sisodia, who also holds the excise portfolio in the Kejriwal government, on Saturday.

Sisodia has said that the AAP government is not against the probe but the targeting of Kejriwal by the BJP-led central government.

There is no scam in the policy and it was implemented transparently, he had also said.

The Kejriwal government had withdrawn the excise policy after Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena recommended a CBI probe into its implementation last month.

Neither the Kejriwal government nor AAP has given any reason behind the scrapping of the policy.

(With PTI Inputs)

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