Delhi excise policy modified without obtaining LG's opinion: CBI FIR

The FIR mentions the letter of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena sent to Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla.  

Published: 19th August 2022 09:25 PM  |   Last Updated: 19th August 2022 09:30 PM   |  A+A-


The New Indian Express first broke the story of how all was not well with Delhi's new excise policy that had pushed liquor trade into the hands of private players. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the FIR against Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, liquor barons and others flagged that decision taken at the level of the Council of Ministers modifying the excise policy was done without obtaining the opinion of Lieutenant Governor as mandated.

The FIR mentions the letter of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena sent to Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla.  

Saxena stated he had ordered inquiry in the excise policy and Chief Secretary Delhi submitted a report on July 8, 2022.  The report stated that after the approval of the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 on May 24, 2021 and consequential amendments in statutory rules on May 31, 2021, “various major decisions and actions have been taken and executed by the Department with the approval of Minister-in-Charge in violation of the statutory provisions and the Notified Excise Policy, which have financial implications and are in the nature of extending undue favor to the licensee 'post tender.”

He stated that decision was taken at the level of the Council of Ministers modifying the Excise Policy “without obtaining the opinion of Lt Governor as mandated by the recent amendments in Government of NCT of Delhi Act and order dated April 28, 2021 of Lt. Governor' Secretariat and Transaction of Business of GNCTD Rules, 1993.”

He also stated that the major changes in annual license fee and changes in methodology to calculate the license fee were approved Cabinet Decision on June 23, 2021, but this matter was not submitted for the opinion of Lieutenant Governor.

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He also pointed out that decisions were taken by the excise department without the approval of the Competent Authority to extend undue favor to the licensee 'Post Tender".

The department decided to refund EMD amounting Rs 30 Crores in case of License of Airport Zone as the successful tenderer was not able to obtain NOC from Airport Authorities. However Excise Rules provides that the successful tenderer should complete all formalities for grant of license failing which all deposits made by him shall stand forfeited.

The Department through order dated November 8, 2021 without the approval of the authority revised the formula of calculation of rates of foreign liquor and removed the levy of import pass fee Rs.50 per case on beer which made the foreign liquor as well as beer cheaper for retail licensees. “Extension of such benefit, post tender, amounts to extending undue favor to Licencees,” the letter stated.

The Department deferred coercive action against L7Z licensees in case of default in payment of license fee, interest and penalty for non-genuine reasons in relaxation of the provisions of the tender document resulting in undue favor to the L7Z licensees.

The Department allowed waiver on tendered license fee on account of COVID-19 pandemic from December 28, 2021 to January 27, 2022, despite the fact that no specific provision for compensation in the form of reduction in tendered license fee was available in the tender document. It resulted in undue benefit to the licenace and a loss of about Rs. 144.36 Crores to the public exchequer.

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The Department floated a tender by incorporating a condition of setting up minimum two liquor vends in each ward without undertaking any exercise or due diligence to ascertain the viability of opening of minimum two vends in each ward. Subsequently, the Department offered the existing licensees to open additional vends in conforming areas in lieu of non-conforming wards without taking approval of the Competent Authority.

No penal action in accordance with Delhi Excise Act was taken against the licensees for violation of Rule when information regarding promotional activities being undertaken by Licensees through the usage of social media/banners/ hoardings came to the knowledge of the Department.

He also stated that the Council of Ministers earlier authorized the Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on April 15, 2021 to make minor changes within the overall framework of the policy as may be necessary in the interest of implementation. However, subsequently as advised by then LG such authorization was withdrawn by the Council of Ministers through a decision dated May 21, 2021. Despite the above, the above decisions in question were taken and implemented by the excise department with the approval of Sisodia.

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