Delhi liquor scam: 10 questions Deputy Chief Minister refuses to answer
While drafting the policy, the government ignored recommendations of its own panel of experts headed by Ravi Dhawan, which was set up to offer advice on the best practices.
NEW DELHI: This newspaper’s story hit the bull’s eye on Friday with the CBI registering an FIR against Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and raiding his residence to collect more evidence in a case where the state government is alleged to have “extended wrongful gains and favour to liquor wholesalers in Delhi… at the cost of state’s revenue”.
This paper was the first to break the story on June 22 that the CBI would look into the Kejriwal government’s new excise policy 2021-22 which appeared customised to benefit a few big players.
While drafting the policy, the government ignored the recommendations of its own panel of experts headed by Ravi Dhawan, which was set up to offer advice on the best practices.
After a deep dive into the policy papers, this paper mailed Sisodia 10 questions. He did not answer any. Instead, a reply was sent by the AAP, which rejected all allegations of wrongdoing and said they were orchestrated by the BJP to defame the Kejriwal government.
Even today, the AAP ecosystem is refusing to talk about the policy. Instead, Kejriwal said the raids were aimed at countering Sisodia’s popularity in the education sector, which got him a front page mention in The New York Times.
The AAP machinery tried to give a political twist to the CBI FIR and the raids. While the CBI took its time to register the FIR, the Lt Governor of Delhi ordered a probe by the state vigilance department. The Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police, too, initiated a probe.
The vigilance probe concluded that prima facie Sisodia was involved in tweaking policy without the approval of the state Cabinet and the LG. The questions this paper sent Sisodia on June 14 remain at the core of the controversy.
Here is their abridged version:
- The Delhi government is accused of favouring large distribution companies by stipulating conditions such as an annual turnover of Rs 150 crore for three previous years to bid for L-1 license. How did you arrive at this high entry limit of Rs 150 crore?
- Is it true that Rs 150 cr annual turnover entry limit led to two large companies - Indo Spirit and Brindco Spirits - wresting control of about 80% of the wholesale business of Indian liquor by eliminating smaller players through predatory pricing?
- Was it a conscious decision of the Group of Ministers of the Delhi government, which included you, to create a monopoly of large companies by eliminating smaller players?
- Is it true that Indo Spirit and Brindco Spirits are the only wholesalers in Delhi of the brands offered by Pernod Ricard and Diageo India, and now have complete control over the supply and price negotiation with retail liquor vends for these brands?
- Is it true that the new excise policy has a fixed profit margin of 12% for the wholesalers irrespective of the sales and actual profits of retailers, leading to windfall profits for the wholesalers?
- How would you respond to the allegation that the Delhi government conspired to extend wrongful gains and favours to Indo Spirit and Brindco Spirits?
- Is it true that an excise policy similar to the one implemented in Delhi is being formulated for Punjab?
- Is it true that a meeting had taken place at your residence in Delhi on 30.05.2022, which was attended by Varun Ranjan (Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Punjab), Kap Sinha (Financial Commissioner, Taxation, Punjab), Harpal Cheema (excise minister, Punjab), Raghav Chadha, Naresh Dubey, Vijay Nair? What was the agenda?
- How do you respond to charges that Delhi’s new excise policy would disrupt liquor trade in the city, destroy smaller traders and cause loss to the state exchequer in the long run?
- Is it true that nine zones of Delhi have surrendered their licenses and are now not paying the annual fee causing a loss to the exchequer?