The arrest of Manish Sisodia, the former Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, has sent shockwaves through the political landscape of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Sisodia, a key figure in formulating and implementing the Delhi Excise Policy, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on February 26, 2023, after being interrogated for nearly eight hours. This arrest is the latest development in a series of events that have rocked the Delhi Excise Department since July 2022.
What is the Delhi Excise policy of 2021?
Delhi Excise Policy was launched in November, 2021, through which Delhi government exited the retail liquor business in the national capital and gave sole power to the liquor retailers for sale. This was done to amplify state excise duty to over Rs. 9,500 crores.
Under the new policy, 849 liquor stores were to open in Delhi across 32 zones. The retailers were allowed to give discounts or introduce schemes such as “buy one get one free”, unlike the previous policy, which prohibited such offers and mandated the sale of liquor at MRP.
Delhi government claimed over Rs. 9,000 crore revenue through this policy as opposed to Rs. 6,000 crore revenue, which was recorded earlier under the old policy.
Chronological Order of Events that Unfolded
The controversy began on July 8, 2022, when Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar submitted a report to Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena on alleged irregularities in implementing the excise policy for the year 2021-22. This report raised concerns about the lack of transparency in the selection process for liquor vendors and the possible manipulation of excise duty rates to favour certain vendors. It also highlighted the alleged violation of rules in the allotment of licenses and the collection of excise duty, which resulted in losses to the state exchequer. Moreover, only 464 outlets remained out of the 849 owing to the financial losses and cutthroat competition from the favoured players.
On July 22, 2022, the Lieutenant Governor recommended a CBI probe into the formulation and implementation of the excise policy. The next day, the Chief Secretary was asked to probe the role of officers in formulating and implementing the excise policy.
On July 30, 2022, Sisodia announced that all existing private liquor shops would shut from August 1, and only government-run shops would be allowed to open. This decision led to a liquor crisis in the city, and the excise policy was extended by a month.
However, on August 17, 2022, the CBI registered a case against 15 people, including Sisodia, in connection with the alleged irregularities in the Delhi excise policy. On August 19, 2022, the CBI carried out searches at Sisodia’s premises in the national capital.
The tensions between the central and the state government intensified when the central government’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) registered a separate money laundering case in connection with the excise policy on August 22, 2022. The Delhi government criticized this move, claiming that the central government was trying to implicate its leaders in false cases to tarnish its image. Furthermore, on October 17, 2022, Sisodia was interrogated by the CBI for eight hours.
On February 18, 2023, the CBI summoned Sisodia, who appealed before the agency to be called by month-end as he was busy with budget preparations. However, on February 26, 2023, Sisodia was arrested by the CBI after nearly eight hours of questioning. Delhi’s Rouse Avenue court sent Sisodia to five-day CBI custody the next day.
On February 28, the Supreme Court refused to entertain Sisodia’s bail plea and asked him to move to the high court. Later, he and another jailed cabinet colleague Satyendar Jain resigned from the Delhi cabinet.
On March 4, the Delhi court extended Sisodia’s CBI custody till March 6. On March 7, the ED recorded Sisodia’s statement for six hours, and on March 9, the ED arrested Sisodia after grilling him for the second time. He will now be kept in judicial custody till 5th of April, 2023.
In conclusion, the arrest of Manish Sisodia has sent shockwaves through the political landscape of Delhi. The events leading up to his arrest raise concerns about the lack of transparency and possible irregularities in formulating and implementing the Delhi Excise Policy. The investigation into this matter is ongoing, and it remains to be seen what the final outcome will be.
Written By – Saumya Juneja