Arvind Kejriwal received another summon after already being served twice. The ED confirmed it on Friday. The organisation wanted to enquire the involvement of the CM in the latest unfolded Delhi Excise Policy Scam Case. However, Arvind Kejriwal has been ignoring the summons.
According to sources, the agency has asked Kejriwal, who is currently on a Vipassana meditation retreat in Punjab, to present himself for questioning on January 3. The AAP, in response, termed it vendetta and said the party could neither confirm nor deny whether the summons had been served.
Arvind Kejriwal had earlier been asked to present himself before the agency on December 21. In his reply furnished to the ED after skipping the summons, he termed it “politically motivated”. The AAP convenor then proceeded on the 10-day Vipassana session, sticking to his pre-announced schedule.
“It’s just political vendetta to counter the growing popularity of AAP across the country. Since CM Arvind Kejriwal has left for Vipassana on the 19th, we cannot confirm if another summons has been received or not,” the AAP added.
Both the CBI and ED have registered separate cases in connection with the now-scrapped excise policy for 2021-22, which allegedly favoured certain dealers in return for bribes. In April this year, the CBI questioned Kejriwal in connection with its case.
In its preliminary complaint – asking to a chargesheet – filed in a Delhi court in February, the ED had said that Kejriwal allegedly spoke to another accused in the case – Sameer Mahendru – on a video call and asked him to continue working with co-accused Vijay Nair, AAP’s communication in-charge, referring to him as “his boy”.
The first summons was issued in October, as per which he was to appear for questioning on November 2. He, however, did not appear and wrote a letter to the ED Assistant Director instead, saying, “please recall the said summons, which, to say the least, is vague and motivated and, I am advised, unsustainable in law.”
Arvind Kejriwal’s allegations towards ED and the Centre
Kejriwal, while skipping the second summons, alleged that these actions were politically motivated and aimed at silencing the voice of the opposition in the lead-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The AAP’s strong reaction to the ED’s summons reflects the party’s belief that the case against Kejriwal is politically driven and lacks a solid legal basis. The party’s concerns about the timing of the summons and Kejriwal’s absence due to his meditation course further add to the controversy surrounding this issue.
What is the Delhi Liquor Case which has led to this tug of War?
The Excise policy was framed on the recommendations of an expert committee and came into force on November 17, 2021. The policy was aimed at increasing government revenues and also ending the liquor mafia’s influence and black marketing.
Under the new policy, open bidding was conducted for 849 liquor vends which were awarded to private companies. The city was divided into 32 zones, each allotted a maximum of 27 vends. There were no individual licences and the bidding was done zone-by-zone.
The city government’s role in the liquor business ended with the new excise policy. The government was left with no control over the sale of liquor in the capital. While the government said the policy would lead to equal distribution of liquor vends in the city, several social, educational and religious groups weren’t happy with it.
That it was implemented in the middle of the second Covid wave made things worse for the Delhi government. The policy was rolled back in July 2022 and the old liquor policy came into force once again.
The controversy over the liquor policy started when allegations started swirling that the AAP government used the policy to extend undue financial favours to the liquor licensees, much after the tenders had been awarded, thus causing huge losses to the exchequer.
The CBI is probing allegations that the liquor policy gave undue advantages to private retailers. The CBI also says that corruption in the matter goes to the “highest levels” in Kejriwal’s government. It has claimed crores in kickbacks were paid for favours in the policy and the funds were used by the AAP for its election campaign in Goa last year.
A July 8 report by the Chief Secretary of Delhi last year also showed prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR) 1993, Delhi Excise Act 2009 and Delhi Excise Rules 2010.
Following the report, Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena ordered a probe into the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22. He recommended a CBI probe on July 22, 2022, into the alleged rule violations and other wrongdoings in the implementation of the excise policy.
The Excise Case alleged that “Minister In-charge of the Excise Department, Manish Sisodia, took and got executed, major decisions/actions”, which were “in violation of the statutory provisions and the notified Excise Policy that had huge financial implications.”
“It was done so with the sole aim of benefitting private liquor barons in lieu of financial benefits to individuals at the highest echelons of the government leading up to the Minister-in-charge of Excise & Finance, Manish Sisodia,” the report said.
In August, the CBI registered an FIR in a special court that mentioned crores were allegedly paid to close associates of Sisodia by Sameer Mahendru, the owner of Indospirits. The liquor trader had been actively involved in irregularities in the framing and implementation of the excise policy.
Former Deputy CM Manish Sisodia’s arrest has been the most high-profile arrest in the matter to date. His judicial custody was extended till May 1 on Monday in the now-scrapped excise policy. Sisodia was produced physically on Monday before the Court from Tihar Jail after the end of his judicial custody period. Earlier on April 3, the same court extended Sisodia’s judicial custody till April 17.
Sisodia was arrested on February 26 by the CBI which is probing alleged irregularities in the framing and implementation of the excise policy of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The following month, Sisodia was arrested while still in jail by the Enforcement Directorate which is probing allegations of money laundering in the case.