Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stirred a storm in the national capital on Wednesday. While the AAP supremo has skipped the summons for now, the latest development marks a significant development in the Delhi Liquor policy case.
The summons came right after the Supreme Court rejected the bail petition of Delhi's former Deputy CM Manish Sisodia. The apex court noted that the probe agency was able to uncover a tentative money trail of Rs 338 crore.
Earlier in October, Sanjay Singh was arrested in the same case. Here is everything you need to know about the Liquor Policy, the case and the timeline of everything that has happened so far.
What Was Delhi Liquor Policy 2021-22?
Back in 2021, the AAP government had initiated a series of changes in its liquor excise policy launched in 2021. These adjustments included lowering the legal drinking age from 25 to 21 years, the cessation of government-owned liquor stores with the issuance of store operation licenses to private entities, separate registration criteria for different liquor brands, taking into account factors such as pricing and sales performance in areas outside of Delhi.
It also proposed a significant increase in the annual liquor vending license fee, raising it from Rs 8 lakh to Rs 75 lakh.
The Delhi government withdrew from the liquor retail business, granting licenses to 849 private vendors through competitive bidding.
Withdrawal of Delhi Liquor Policy
However, the government announced the rollback of the excise policy. This move was in response to allegations of corruption and favoritism in the licensing process.
The excise policy had faced widespread opposition amid the Coronavirus pandemic as well. Controversies arose over allegations of financial favouritism to liquor licensees during the allotment of tenders.
Adding to the troubles for the AAP Party was Delhi's Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, who initiated an investigation into the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22. He suggested an inquiry to look into purported breaches of rules and procedural irregularities during the execution of the excise policy.
Saxena, based on a report from Delhi's top bureaucrat, formally called for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe. The report accused Sisodia of bending rules and providing undue benefits to liquor vend licensees.
CBI filed a case against the Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, who helmed the excise department, and other people involved in the process for fraud and bribery. The investigation involved property searches, and the ED accused some AAP leaders of benefiting from the scheme. This eventually led to Sisodia's legal troubles and arrest.
What has happened in the case so far
Manish Sisodia was initially arrested by the CBI in February'23 and then by the ED in a money-laundering case. He later sought bail in both cases from the Delhi High Court. However, on May 30, the court denied him bail in the CBI case, citing concerns about his high-profile status potentially influencing witnesses.
Sisodia contested the Delhi High Court's decision in the Supreme Court. On October 30, the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal, saying that a tentative money trail was established.
In the latest turn of events, the Delhi Chief Minister was summoned by the ED in the Delhi excise policy case. The probe agency purportedly wants to interrogate the CM over the case. Notably, the Opposition led by Bharatiya Janata Party has been calling for the arrest of Delhi CM Kejriwal, claiming he was the lynchpin of the alleged liquor policy scam.
On Thursday, the chief minister asked ED to withdraw its notice against him and refused to come for the interrogation.
After three ignored ED summons, a non-bailable warrant (NBW) may be issued, forcing an individual to appear in court and failure to do so can lead to arrest.