Will ED arrest Arvind Kejriwal? What you need to know about Delhi Excise Policy row

The ED’s case is that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) received ₹100 crore as kickback by cartelising the liquor trade with a new licence regime and used this money for its campaign in the 2022 Goa assembly elections.
Arvind Kejriwal
Arvind Kejriwal
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The Enforcement Directorate is reportedly set to summon Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for the fourth time in the Delhi Excise police case as per provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Kejriwal has skipped three previous summons from November 2023 onwards, calling them "illegal and politically motivated".

The ED’s case is that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) received ₹100 crore as kickback by cartelising the liquor trade with a new licence regime and used this money for its campaign in the 2022 Goa assembly elections. The ED summoned Kejriwal after the Supreme Court asked why the AAP, which allegedly made crores from tweaking the policy, has not been made an accused.

What is the Delhi excise policy change?

The Delhi Cabinet in its meeting on November 5, 2021 decided to allow the opening of liquor shops in non-conforming areas. A non-conforming area includes unauthorised areas or colonies, or those which are ordinarily not included in such policies. 

Under the policy, zonal licences were issued by the Excise Department to private bidders through an open auction for a total of 849 liquor stores — distributed into 32 zones each having 27 vends.

When the zonal licencees couldn’t open liquor vends due to restrictions in permissions from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), a committee was set up by former Lieutenant Governor (LG) Anil Baijal, under the chairmanship of the DDA vice chairman, to find a solution.

The committee recommended shifting retail licensees from non-conforming wards to conforming wards in each zone. However, the issues persisted. Manish Sisodia has said the government suffered revenue losses of thousands of crores of rupees because shops could not open in non-conforming areas as licensees whose wards were conforming had a windfall gain.

In July 2022, LG Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended a probe by the CBI into the alleged violations of rules and procedural lapses in the implementation of the policy. Following this, the Delhi government withdrew the policy. A report prepared by the Vigilance Directorate on the role of excise officials in executing the policy observed that the Committee report was not submitted by the then Excise Commissioner A Gopi Krishna despite having the draft ready with him on July 4. Krishna is also one of the accused in the FIR and one of the 11 excise officials whose suspension was recommended by the current LG.

What does the CBI FIR against Sisodia say?

The CBI has alleged that there were many irregularities in the excise policy, including licensees getting undue favours, waivers or a reduction in the licence fee, as well as extensions of licences without approvals. The CBI’s FIR states that Manish Sisodia and the other accused public servants took decisions pertaining to the excise policy 2021-22 without the approval of competent authority with "an intention to extend undue favours to the licencees post tender”.

Under the CBI probe are at least two payments in crores allegedly made to “close associates” of Sisodia by Sameer Mahendru, the owner of Indospirits, who was one of the liquor traders actively involved in alleged irregularities in the framing and implementation of the excise policy. The FIR alleged Sisodia’s "close associates" — Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Pvt. Limited in Gurugram, Dinesh Arora and Arjun Pandey — were “actively involved in managing and diverting the undue pecuniary advantage collected from liquor licensees” to the accused public servants.

The CBI has invoked the sections under criminal conspiracy as well as provisions of the stringent Prevention of Corruption Act (PMLA). Public servants including Krishna, former Deputy Excise Commissioner Anand Tiwari and Assistant Excise Commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar, nine businessmen and two companies are among those named in the FIR. 

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