CBI raids Sisodia’s home and 20 other locations, AAP decries efforts to ‘harass’ its leaders

The CBI on Friday raided the home of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and 20 other locations in connection with the Delhi Excise Policy, escalating tensions between the government and the Aam Aadmi Party which alleged the agency was acting on orders from above.The searches at the AAP leaders home, the residence of IAS officer and former excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna and 19 other places came after the CBI registered an FIR for alleged irregularities in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy brought out in November last year, officials said.


PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 19-08-2022 14:17 IST | Created: 19-08-2022 14:12 IST
CBI raids Sisodia’s home and 20 other locations, AAP decries efforts to ‘harass’ its leaders
Representative Image Image Credit: ANI
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The CBI on Friday raided the home of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and 20 other locations in connection with the Delhi Excise Policy, escalating tensions between the government and the Aam Aadmi Party which alleged the agency was acting on orders "from above".

The searches at the AAP leader's home, the residence of IAS officer and former excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna and 19 other places came after the CBI registered an FIR for alleged irregularities in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy brought out in November last year, officials said. The searches covered seven states and union territories. The premises of two other public servants were also searched, the officials said.

As CBI teams fanned out across the country and AAP supporters gathered outside Sisodia's central Delhi home, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said there is no need to panic and the agency had been "asked from above" to harass them. "Many obstacles will be created in our path in our mission. This is not the first raid on Sisodia, there were raids in the past too. There have also been raids on many of our ministers and me also but nothing came out of those and nothing will come out this time as well,'' he said at online briefing. Hailing Sisodia as the world's best education minister, Kejriwal also held up a front page story about "Delhi's education revolution" in the New York Times. Sisodia holds multiple portfolios, including excise and education.

''It is a matter of pride for the country that Manish Sisodia's name is on the front page of the biggest newspaper of the most powerful country in the world. In a way, he has been declared the best education minister in the world. The biggest newspaper wrote about Delhi's education revolution and carried Sisodia''s photograph also.'' Kejriwal said.

The AAP leader also used the occasion to push his 'Make India Number One Country', announced on Wednesday. ''People must join this mission by giving missed call on 9510001000. We cannot leave the country to political parties. We have to come together,'' he stressed. Kejriwal's deputy, at the proverbial centre of the storm, echoed the mood and said conspiracies will not break him nor deter his resolve to continue to work for good education.

The CBI has arrived and is welcome, Sisodia said on Twitter as CBI teams searched his home. ''We are hard core honest and are shaping the future of lakhs of children. It is very unfortunate that those who do good work in our country are harassed like this. That is why our country could not become the number one,'' Sisodia said.

In a series of posts on Twitter, he said they will extend full cooperation in the probe so the truth emerges soon.

Sisodia alleged that people were troubled by the excellent work being done in Delhi in the sectors of education and health. That's why, he said, Delhi's education and health ministers had been caught – a reference to himself and Satyendar Jain who is behind bars on a money laundering case. ''There are false allegations against us and the truth will emerge in court,'' he added.

As the political storm gathered strength, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur hit out at Delhi's ruling party. Dubbing Sisodia an "excuse minister", Thakur said the issue is not about education but the excise policy. "Today, the issue is of liquor licences and corruption involved in it. The minister concerned is Manish Sisodia. He reversed the excise policy the day the probe was handed over to the CBI. Why was this step taken, because there was corruption in the issuance of liquor licences," Thakur said.

The minister said the fear of a CBI probe had compelled Kejriwal and Sisodia to link the searches by the central investigative agency to education facilities in the national capital.

Adding its voice to the debate, the Congress said the "relentless misuse" of agencies against political rivals erodes their credibility and gives an opportunity even for the corrupt to get away.

''The flip side to relentless misuse of agencies against political rivals is that even legitimate, rightful actions of agencies come under a cloud of suspicion," party spokesperson Pawan Khera said on Twitter. Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena last month recommended a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in the implementation of Delhi's Excise Policy 2021-22. He suspended 11 excise officials in the matter. Sisodia had also demanded a CBI probe in the alleged irregularities in the policy.

The CBI inquiry was recommended on the findings of the Delhi chief secretary's report filed in July showing prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR)-1993, Delhi Excise Act-2009 and Delhi Excise Rules-2010, they said.

According to officials, the report had shown prima facie violations, including ''deliberate and gross procedural lapses'', to provide post-tender ''undue benefits to liquor licensees'' through the policy. It is alleged that undue financial favours were extended to liquor licensees after the tenders were awarded, causing loss to the exchequer. The excise department gave a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore to the licensees on the tendered licence fee on the excuse of COVID-19, sources claimed. They added that it also refunded the earnest money of Rs 30 crore to the lowest bidder for the licence of the airport zone when it failed to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from airport authorities.

''It was in gross violation of rule 48(11)(b) of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010, which clearly stipulates that the successful bidder must complete all formalities for the grant of the licence, failing which all deposits made by him shall stand forfeited to the government,'' one source said.

The Excise Policy 2021-22, formulated on the basis of an expert committee report, was implemented from November 17 last year and retail licences were issued under it to private bidders for 849 vends across the city, divided into 32 zones.

Several provisions such as slashing the number of dry days to three from 21 per year, the government's exit from retail liquor sale, allowing bars in hotels, restaurants to stay open till 3 am (awaiting police permission) and the retail licensees to offer rebates and schemes on alcohol were implemented by the excise department.

However, under the policy, many liquor stores failed to open for being located in non-conforming areas of the city. Several such vends were sealed by municipal corporations for violations of the Master Plan. Jain was arrested on May 30 by the Enforcement Directorate under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and is presently in judicial custody.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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