The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has recently issued a notice to Delhi's Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, as part of the ongoing probe into the city's controversial liquor policy. This development comes in the wake of a previous summons by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) back in April.
Kejriwal is scheduled for questioning on November 2, marking a pivotal moment in the investigation. The summon is a significant step forward in untangling the intricate web of events surrounding the alleged irregularities in Delhi's liquor policy.
This summons assumes greater significance as it coincides with the Supreme Court's recent rejection of bail for Manish Sisodia, a key figure in the controversy. The court's acknowledgment of provisional evidence amounting to a transaction of Rs 338 crore underscores the gravity of the allegations.
The official Twitter handle of the Aam Aadmi Party has not shied away from making strong claims. Alleging that the Central Government's intent is to destabilize and ultimately destroy the party, they assert that the case against Arvind Kejriwal is entirely fabricated, aimed at silencing the opposition.
“They want to arrest Kejriwal” – Saurabh Bhardwaj
Delhi's Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj's response to the summons is indicative of the charged political climate. He contends that the ED's summons to Kejriwal on November 2 is clear evidence of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) unwavering determination to suppress the Aam Aadmi Party, even if it means resorting to baseless allegations.
In stark contrast, Delhi BJP President Virendra Sachdeva views the ED's summons as a triumph of truth. He expresses confidence that Delhi will soon be liberated from what he characterizes as the corrupt administration of Arvind Kejriwal.
To provide context, let's revisit the liquor policy at the heart of this controversy. Announced by Manish Sisodia on March 22, 2021, the policy was implemented on November 17, 2021. The central objective was to transition the liquor industry from government control to private hands, with the hope of stimulating revenue growth by an estimated Rs 9,500 crore. As a consequence, the government divested itself of direct involvement in the liquor business, allowing private companies to take the reins. A total of 849 liquor shops were slated to be opened across 32 zones, with a maximum of 27 shops in each zone. This represented a shift from the previous model, where four government companies operated 475 out of 864 shops.
However, the policy was mired in controversy right from its inception, leading to its cancellation on July 28, 2022, after a period of heated debate and critique.
A detailed timeline of events pertaining to the excise scam offers a comprehensive view of the unfolding saga. It began with Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena's recommendation for a CBI inquiry on July 22, 2022, following reports of alleged rule violations and lapses in policy implementation. The subsequent arrest of key figures and a series of investigations have further illuminated the depth of the alleged irregularities.
When and what happened in the excise scam...complete timeline
On November 17, 2020, the new excise policy was implemented in Delhi.
July 22, 2022: Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena recommended a CBI inquiry into alleged rule violations and lapses in the implementation of the excise policy. The order came after the Delhi Chief Secretary said in a report that rules were violated on a large scale to give undue benefits to liquor licensees.
- July 28, 2022: Excise Minister Manish Sisodia asked the department to change the excise duty policy for a period of six months till the new policy comes.
- July 31, 2022: AAP's most ambitious plan Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 was cancelled. Since then, many senior AAP leaders and their close associates are facing the heat of the Enforcement Directorate and CBI.
-August 17, 2022: CBI registered an FIR against Manish Sisodia, three former government officials and two companies on charges of fraud and bribery in the New Product Policy (2021-22).
- August 19, 2022: CBI raided the residence of Manish Sisodia and three other AAP leaders. Searches were also conducted at many places in Delhi-NCR region.
- August 22, 2022: ED enters the scenario. Information about the case was taken from CBI and a case of money laundering was registered under the excise policy.
- August 30, 2022: A team of five CBI officers reached PNB branch located in Sector 4 Vasundhara, Ghaziabad. There the bank lockers of Manish Sisodia were searched. Sisodia claimed that the CBI did not find anything in his lockers and the investigating agency gave him a clean chit.
- September 6 and 16, 2022: ED raided 35 places across the country, including close associates of the accused, their premises and institutions related to this case. Raids were also conducted in Mumbai, Telangana, Punjab and Delhi-NCR region.
- September 19, 2022: ED summoned AAP MLA Durgesh Pathak and he was interrogated for 10 hours in the case. Sources reveal that ED had called Pathak to give digital evidence and interrogate him about his relationship with Vijay Nair.
- September 27, 2022: CBI made the first major arrest in the case. AAP's communication in-charge Vijay Nair was arrested. Sources reveal that he is one of the main conspirators in the excise policy case.
- September 28, 2022: ED arrested liquor businessman Sameer Mahendra, one of the accused in the alleged Delhi liquor scam. According to the FIR, at least two payments worth crores of rupees were allegedly made by Indospirits owner Sameer Mahendra to 'close associates' of Manish Sisodia.
- 7 October, 2022: ED raided and searched 35 places in Delhi-NCR, Telangana and Punjab. The investigation team also seized Rs 1 crore from the whereabouts of a beneficiary linked to the excise policy.
- 10 October, 2022: CBI made another arrest in the case. The agency arrested Abhishek Boinpalli, who was allegedly lobbying for some liquor barons in South India.
- 17 October, 2022: For the first time in the case, CBI interrogated Manish Sisodia for 9 hours. Soon after, Sisodia alleged that he was pressurized to leave AAP and join BJP.
- 14 November, 2022: ED arrested Vijay Nair and Hyderabad based businessman Abhishek Boinpalli.
- 25 November, 2022: CBI filed its first chargesheet in the Delhi Excise Policy case, in which Manish Sisodia was not named as accused. Names of seven accused including Vijay Nair and Abhishek Boinpalli were included in the charge sheet.
- 30 November, 2022: ED arrested Amit Arora, close to Manish Sisodia. Arora is the director of Gurugram-based Buddy Retail.
- 30 November, 2022: ED has booked Telangana CM K. Chandrashekhar Rao's daughter K. Kavita. The ED claimed in its remand report that Vijay Nair, the main accused in the Delhi Excise Policy case, received a bribe of about Rs 100 crore from 'South Group' of Sarath Reddy, K Kavitha and Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy.
- December 11, 2022: CBI arrested Kavita in connection with Delhi liquor scam. Kavita was interrogated at her residence in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.
- February 2, 2023: ED revealed in its charge sheet that Delhi CM Kejriwal spoke to Sameer Mahendra on video call and asked him to trust Vijay Nair.
- 9 February, 2023: Rajesh Joshi of Chariot Advertising was arrested by ED. This money was reportedly used by AAP in its Goa election campaign.
- 18 February, 2023: CBI summoned Manish Sisodia again. However, citing budget preparations, Sisodia asked the CBI to postpone the inquiry. The agency issued a fresh summons and called him for questioning on 26 February.
- 26 February, 2023: CBI once again interrogated Manish Sisodia for hours in the policy case. After that he was arrested.
- October 4, 2023: ED raided the official residence of Sanjay Singh. He was searched and interrogated for 10 hours. After that Sanjay Singh was arrested. Both Manish and Sanjay are among the big leaders of Aam Aadmi Party and both are now in jail.
- October 30, 2023: Supreme Court rejects the bail plea of Manish Sisodia. After this, late in the evening ED has sent a notice to CM Arvind Kejriwal for questioning.
The number of accused in the chargesheet and two supplementary chargesheets filed by ED in the money laundering case has reached 25. CBI has so far arrested Manish Sisodia, Vijay Nair, Abhishek Boinpalli and others in the corruption case. Whereas ED has arrested Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh and other accused in the money laundering case.
What was the new liquor policy?
It was implemented by the Aam Aadmi Party government on 17 November 2021. Due to its implementation, estimated increase in revenue by Rs 9,500 crore. Government was out of liquor business and private companies were allowed to be in the business. 849 shops were to be opened in 32 zones, of which maximum 27 shops were to be opened in each zone. Earlier, out of 864 shops, 475 shops were run by four government companies.