Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena has suspended 11 officials, including an IAS officer, for “serious lapses” in the implementation of Excise Policy 2021-22, even as the AAP government accused his predecessor Anil Baijal of extending “special favours” to a few private players and demanded a CBI inquiry into it.
Sources said that suspension and major disciplinary proceedings have been approved against the then Delhi excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, a 2012-batch AGMUT cadre IAS officer, deputy excise commissioner Anand Kumar Tiwari, three ad-hoc DANICS officers and six officials of the Delhi government’s excise department.
The LG has taken the decision in view of the “serious lapses on the part of the officers concerned” in the implementation of the excise policy, including “irregularities in finalizing the tender and extending post-tender benefits” to select vendors, they said.
The action was taken by Mr Saxena based on an inquiry report filed by the Directorate of Vigilance (DoV).
A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry has already been recommended by the LG into the alleged violation of rules and procedural lapses in the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.
Addressing a press conference at his residence on Saturday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that Mr Baijal changed his stand over opening liquor vends in unauthorized areas, which led to a loss of “thousands of crores of rupees” to the city government.
There was no immediate reaction available fromMr Baijal. He was the Delhi LG when the Arvind Kejriwal government prepared the new excise policy, which was implemented on November 17, 2021.
The government has now withdrawn the policy and is preparing to run liquor vends under the old excise regime through its undertakings from September 1.
“Under the new excise policy, 849 shops were to be opened across Delhi, including in unauthorized areas. The LG did not object to the proposal and approved it,” Mr Sisodia, who also heads the excise department, said.
However, on November 15 last year, two days before the implementation of the policy, Mr Baijal changed his stand and introduced a condition that permission from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) would be needed for opening liquor shops in unauthorized areas, he alleged.
“As a result of this change of stand by the LG, the shops could not be opened in unauthorized areas, leading to a loss of revenue of thousands of crores to the government. On the other hand, the shops that opened witnessed a huge income ,” the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said.
“Under the old excise policy, all the former LGs allowed the opening of liquor stores in unauthorized colonies, the same was allowed by the LG in the New Excise Policy, then why was the policy modified so abruptly? Why were DDA and MCD NOCs added to it,” Mr Sisodia asked.
Mr Sisodia, who has written to CBI director Subodh Kumar Jaiswal for a probe, said that the agency must investigate why Mr Baijal modified excise policy overnight and ask him under “whose pressure he extended” the alleged “financial favors to some liquor licensees”.
Hitting out at the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation, BJP charged that the AAP government is trying to divert attention from the irregularities in its excise policy and using Mr Baijal as a “sacrificial lamb”.
BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra asked why Mr Sisodia was silent so far.
He alleged numerous irregularities in the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22 by the Delhi government.
Mr Sisodia first exempted Rs 144 crore license fee of licenses during the coronavirus pandemic without Cabinet approval, which was taken only in July 2022, Mr Patra claimed.
Sources at the LG office claimed that the inquiry report filed by the Directorate of Vigilance contained proofs of irregularities that were provided to DoV by the finance and the excise departments, both under Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.
The report clearly brings out blatant violation of procedures, deliberate misinterpretation and subversion of basic government financial rules to provide benefit to licensees obviously for a “quid pro quo”, they said.
“From the formulation of the tender document to award of tenders, undue return of earnest money deposit worth Rs 30 crore, waiver of license fee worth Rs 144.36 crore to allow additional liquor vends to be opened by chosen licensees, the entire episode stinks of corruption and connivance,” they charged.
The report said that Excise department officers equated the successful tenderer selected for the airport zone to get NOC from authorities to open vends there, with unsuccessful bidders to refund it Rs 30 crore EMD (earnest money deposit).
“The Deputy Chief Minister, through his note dated July 2021, decided that the EMD should be refunded to the H1 bidder who had failed to obtain no objection certificate from the Airport Authority,” sources said citing the report.
Aam Aadmi Party chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj hit out at the BJP for coming out in defense of the former LG and asked, “What is your problem if CBI investigates the matter, looks into the questions raised by the Deputy Chief Minister? Why are you scared ?”
He said the AAP has welcomed the incumbent LG’s recommendation for a CBI probe and Mr Sisodia has urged the CBI to look into the questions raised by him.
“The BJP should not try to save the (former) LG. When we are welcoming the CBI probe, they (BJP) should also welcome it,” he added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)