Manish Sisodia arrested: What is Delhi Liquor Policy Scam & why Delhi's DyCM was arrested?

Manish Sisodia was arrested and he was taken for questioning on Sunday over the alleged liquor scam which took place under the Delhi Excise Policy

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In a massive development, Delhi's Deputy CM and Education Minister Manish Sisodia on Sunday was arrested after 7 hours of questioning by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Manish Sisodia was arrested and he was taken for questioning on Sunday over the alleged liquor scam which took place under the Delhi Excise Policy. Notably, Sisodia had earlier said he was ready for a seven to eight months of stay in jail. His party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had assured that they will look after his family. Notably, this comes after Sisodia, during a show of strength organised by AAP in the national capital, asked his party members to take care of his family if he is jailed. During a press conference, AAP leaders said that the BJP is 'scared' of AAP which is why they are using Central agencies like CBI and ED to attack 'innocent' people like Sisodia. Now, the question arises who is the alleged liquor scam case that took place under the Delhi Excise Policy? Here's what you should know-

What is Delhi's Liquor Scam Case?

Manish Sisodia was head of the Excise department in the national capital on July 30 announced the scrapping of the government’s new liquor rules under Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, allowing only government-owned liquor vendors to operate in Delhi, despite a 27% increase in government revenue amounting to Rs 8,900 crore resulting from the new excise regime for liquor sales. In November 2021, the new liquor policy was implemented and under this, the Delhi Government took an exit from the liquor trade entirely, shutting all government-run vends, and the sale of liquor was handed over exclusively to private players. The Delhi government had stated that the newly passed liquor policy will eliminate the liquor mafia, increase revenue for the government, and enhance the consumer experience, however, Delhi's chief secretary Naresh Kumar’s report released on July 8 said otherwise.

The first alarm in newly formed Delhi Liquor Policy was flagged by Delhi chief secretary Naresh Kumar who found irregularities and procedural lapses in the new liquor policy and sent a report to (then) Lt Governor VK Saxena accusing Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia of providing undue benefits to those holding liquor licenses. He alleged the benefits were extended in return for the money that was used by the AAP in the Punjab Assembly polls (in which Aam Aadmi Party won).

In July last year, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Vinai Kumar Saxena, recommended a CBI probe in connection with the new policy regime, directing Delhi’s Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar to submit a detailed report of the “role of officers and civil servants in its illegal formulation, amendments and implementation.” In his report, Kumar pointed out that the decision to change the liquor policy was done without the authorisation of the L-G, providing ‘undue benefits’ to private liquor vendors. As a result, a response was sought regarding the same from Sisodia on July 8.

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Furthermore, Kumar in his report outlined the 'procedural lapses' when the new Liquor Policy was implemented. The report also highlighted that t the approval of a waiver to the tune of Rs 144.36 crore on tendered licence fee due to COVID, without the authorisation of the L-G was made by the Delhi Government. Not only this, it further said that an import pass fee of Rs 50 per beer case was also waived off which resulted in huge losses for the excise department while profiting the licensees.

In the Delhi Liquor Policy scam, Kumar had communicated to the EOW regarding the alleged anomalies and monopolisation of the liquor trade as a result of the new excise policy. The Delhi Police EOW wing then collected video recordings of several meetings held in the excise department for over a fortnight last month. Following that the EOW contacted the Excise Department asking for the documents on the tender policies, distribution of licenses and the procedure followed to curb unfair trade practices.

It is pertinent to mention here that after Delhi LG recommended CBI probe into the liquor policy, Manish Sisodia withdrew the new liquor policy and reverted to the older policy which permits government-owned shops to sell liquor on July 28.

What changes did Manish Sisodia-led Delhi's Excise department make in the new liquor policy (now scrapped)?

The Delhi Liquor Policy which was implemented in November 2021 was proposed in 2020. The Delhi Liquor Policy totally changed the manner in which alcohol was sold in the national capital. While the government took a total exit from the liquor trade, the power was handed over to the private players. In the old liquor policy, only government-owned liquor vendors were permitted to sell alcohol. Under the old liquor policy, only 4 government corporations ran 475 of Delhi's total 864 liquor stores, however, under the new policy, 849 liquor vends were awarded to private companies through open bidding. It means it was the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-2022 that introduced private players in the market of Delhi. Not only this, but the new liquor policy also allowed private players to offer discounts on the MRPs. The private players were also allowed to deliver liquor at home, and even keep their shops open till 3 am. Interestingly, this policy change resulted in a 27 percent increase in government revenue to Rs 8,900 crores and marked the complete exit of the Delhi government from the liquor business.