Delhi Liquor Scam Case: From Manish Sisodia to the daughter of a CM; More prominent names continue to join the list

With the AAP and BJP sparring over the CBI’s move, the arrest has sparked a political sandstorm.

The Delhi excise policy case involves a number of people, including Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia, K. Kavitha, a Telangana MLC of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), and the daughter of Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao and Arun Ramachandra Pillai are all connected. It is alleged that the Delhi government’s excise policy for 2021–2022, which grants licences to liquor traders, allowed cartelization and favoured certain dealers, who allegedly paid bribes totaling Rs 100 crore for it. The AAP has strongly denied this accusation. The decision to abandon the policy was made by the Delhi LG, who also suggested that the CBI conduct an investigation. The ED then filed a case under the PMLA against the same defendant.

What is the Delhi Liquor Policy Scam?

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About the Delhi Excise Policy 2021–2022, the case. Although Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena suggested a CBI investigation into the suspected irregularities in the scheme, it was abandoned on July 30.

The rule went into effect on November 17, 2021. According to the policy, Delhi was divided into 32 excise zones, and private players received retail liquor licences for 849 vends. It symbolised the government’s departure from Delhi’s liquor industry.

According to The Indian Express, “It aimed to end the liquor mafia and black marketing, increase revenue and improve the consumer experience, and ensure equitable distribution of liquor vends.”

The Delhi government also offered retailers some leeway, allowing them to determine their own prices without regard to the product’s MRP and to give discounts to customers in an effort to increase sales.

What are the claims regarding Delhi’s excise policy?

The CBI investigation into suspected rule violations and procedural errors in the creation and implementation of the Excise Policy 2021–22 was recommended by Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena last month. Based on a report provided by Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar, Saxena took the appropriate measures.

Manish Sisodia, the Delhi Cabinet’s deputy chief minister, is being investigated since he is in charge of excise.

In lieu of “kickbacks” and “commissions” that the AAP reportedly utilised in the Punjab Assembly elections in February, according to Kumar’s report, Sisodia allegedly gave unauthorised perks to licensees of booze vends, according to The Express.

On August 17, the CBI filed a FIR in the case, and on August 19, it conducted raids at 31 locations in seven states and union territories, including Sisodia’s residence in Delhi.

What are the allegations on Sisodia?

Manish Sisodia, according to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), played a direct role in the alleged scheme involving the Delhi liquor policy. The declaration was given by the investigation agency on Friday at Sisodia’s bail hearing at Delhi’s Rose Avenue Court.

According to the ED, the policy was drafted to benefit particular people and was not based on the expert committee’s recommendations. It said that the way the policy was written ensured that certain wholesalers obtained a profit margin of 12 percent, six percentage points higher than it ought to have been. According to the ED, who said that it had evidence that Sisodia’s request led to the decision being made, the margin of profit was maintained at 12 percent, which was entirely against the policy.

The central agency further stated that Manish Sisodia insisted on having certain policy provisions weakened “only to benefit a few private firms”. It claimed that such policy adjustments facilitated cartelization.

The ED further stated that the Group of Ministers had never discussed certain aspects of the proposal (GoM). But the rule was accepted and put into practise. The GoM had requested many forms of data, but none of them were ever considered, according to a comment from the former excise commissioner. Manish Sisodia, according to the investigation’s agency, did not cooperate with the probe.

Manish Sisodia was detained on suspicion of money laundering by the ED on Thursday and the Central Bureau of Investigation on February 26. He was placed in protective custody until March 20.

Why is Kavitha being questioned by the ED?

According to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) may detain his daughter and Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) MLC K Kavitha on Saturday in New Delhi as part of the Delhi liquor scam probe. The Chief Minister mentioned that after Kavitha appears before the agency on Saturday to give a testimony, the ED might take her into jail during a meeting of senior BRS leaders that was held Friday evening.

According to sources, the CM noticed that by detaining Kavitha, the BJP-led government at the Centre was attempting to scare BRS. He informed the party leaders that he would carry the fight to Delhi and that there was no chance of him reneging.

According to BRS leaders, the ED inquiry into Kavitha’s alleged role in the Delhi liquor case has caused considerable discomfort in the party. Senior Telangana politician and KCR’s son K T Rama Rao is travelling to New Delhi to support his sister Kavitha as she gets ready to testify before the ED.

On March 9, the ED had called Kavitha to testify in the Delhi liquor policy case. Although affirming her willingness to full cooperation with the investigation, Kavitha stated that she will be able to appear only on March 11. The ED summons have been criticised by Kavitha as a political witch hunt. “Dirty politics is being played in the name of investigation. I have reiterated several times that I have nothing to do with the liquor case or the investigation,’’ she stated.

Kavitha went on a day-long hunger strike on Friday in Jantar Mantar in Delhi to press for the approval of the Women’s Reservation Bill, which would reserve one-third of the seats in state assemblies and Parliament for women. Kavitha was accompanied by Telangana ministers Sabitha Indra Reddy and Satyavathi Rathod. Kavitha was joined in her hunger strike by at least ten political parties, student groups from JNU and Jamia Milia Islamia, youth groups from Punjab and Haryana, and NCBC members. BRS leaders gave her juice to break the fast in the evening.

In her speech, Kavitha stated:“If India needs to develop at par with other countries of the world, then women should be given more representation in politics. Therefore, the Women’s Reservation bill becomes much more important.”  She claimed that the BJP has a historic opportunity to enact the Bill because it has a full majority in Parliament.

Who is Arun Ramachandra Pillai?

The arrest of Hyderabad-based businessman Arun Ramchandran Pillai on Monday acted as the trigger for Kavitha’s questioning by the ED. In order to confront Kavitha with Pillai, the accused frontman of the South Group, the alcohol cartel that is claimed to have had a say in how the excise policy was written, the agency summoned Kavitha. Pillai will be held by the ED until March 13. Pillai allegedly acknowledged serving as Kavitha’s agent, according to the ED. According to the ED, Pillai “connived” to give AAP officials payoffs of Rs 100 crore. The ED claims that Pillai, a prominent conspirator and frontman for Kavitha, not only served as her agent but also carried out her orders.

In its remand report submitted to Delhi’s Rouse Avenue court, the ED stated: “Arun Pillai is one of the key persons in the Delhi excise scam, involving huge kickbacks and formation of the biggest cartel of the ‘South Group’ which comprises Kavitha, YSRC Ongole MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, his son Raghava Magunta and P Sarath Chandra Reddy of Aurobindo Pharma.”