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PoliticsIndiaManish Sisodia accused 3rd time: Liquor policy, older 'scams' explained

Manish Sisodia accused 3rd time: Liquor policy, older ‘scams’ explained

While both the BJP and INC are demanding the resignation of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia for allegedly altering the and city-state's amended excise policy to benefit a motley group of liquor vendors, it is hardly a political issue as the allegation is based on a report by the chief secretary who is a bureaucrat. Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar, in turn, had been ordered by Lieutenant-General VK Saxena.

But this is not the first that Sisodia is facing a charge of wrongdoing.

What are the previous records of accusations of corruption against Manish Sisodia?

When the INC-led UPA government was in office, lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, who had recently resigned from the after heading its legal cell, accused the then union government's Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde of letting Manish Sisodia get foreign donations even before the would-be AAP politician's NGO Kabir had acquired a Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence.

Facing another allegation subsequently, Sisodia said that his NGO had received more than Rs 2 crore in foreign contributions between 2005-06 and 2010-11. He said that the authorities examined this record in accordance with the FCRA, covering the period from 2005-06 to 2011-12, but Upadhyay said Kabir did not have the requisite FCRA in 2005.

Sisodia gave the statement above in 2014 after several mainstream media reports said that he was diverting funds received for his NGO to his wife. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs' controller of accounts had in 2012 said about the funds received by Kabir: "In several cases, payments are not supported with relevant documents and are routed through Manish Sisodia in cash". The alleged irregularities include payment of rent to Sisodia's wife without receipts, unexplained travel expenses and even a "reimbursement" to Sisodia for servicing his car.

Kabir paid Rs 17.7 lakh to RTI activists across the country from 2008 to 2011-2012, but their agreements with it were not shown to the team. It also could not provide the inspectors with any documentary evidence for salary and allowances paid to employees.

What is the new Delhi excise policy?

According to the new excise policy proposed by the government in 2020 and implemented in 2021, liquor shops in Delhi will be allowed to operate till 3 AM — except those that have been licensed to operate around the clock, bars in hotels, clubs and restaurants.

The new rules say that hotels, clubs and restaurants in Delhi can serve Indian and foreign liquor in any area within the licensed premises, including the terrace or balcony, as long as the liquor served is away from public view.

A new licence L-38 — meant for banquet halls, party places, farmhouses, motels, wedding or party or event venues — allows the serving of Indian and foreign liquor at all parties hosted on their premises on payment of a one- annual fee.

Retail sales under L-7V (Indian and foreign liquor category) can be opened in any market, mall, commercial streets and areas, and local shopping complex.

Retail vends that will be air-conditioned will have glass doors. However, customers will not be allowed to crowd outside a vend or the pavement and buy over the counter, the policy document stated.

Apart from satisfactory security arrangements as the vend itself is responsible for the law and order around the premises, CCTV cameras will also have to be installed inside and outside the vend.

Additionally, there will be no restriction on the shelf life of opened liquor bottles at the bar counter.

There will be 849 retail liquor vends in the city, including five super-premium retail vends, having a minimum carpet area of 2,500 sq ft.

Why has the change led to the allegation of corruption against Manish Sisodia?

While the lieutenant-general wants a CBI probe into the allegation, the BJP's charge has been spearheaded by former Akali leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who is now in the saffron camp, who said he had recently filed a complaint with the CBI accusing the Delhi government of levying an excise policy that “extended wrongful gains and favour to liquor wholesalers… at the cost of state’s revenue”.

BJP spokesperson RP Singh claimed that favours were given to Indospirit Beverages Pvt. Ltd, Indospirit Dist. Pvt. Ltd, Indospirit Mktng Pvt. Ltd, M/s Khao Gali Rest Pvt. Ltd by the state government. "All these companies were controlled by Sameer and Geetika Mahandru and both of them were blacklisted by Excise Dept. in 2019," he said.

Has not the denied the charge?

It has, of course, but the denial is dubious. While AAP's Saurabh Bharadwaj said on television that Delhi had 468 liquor vends, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been on record on different occasions, sometimes saying the vends numbered more than 700 and at other times claiming they were over 800.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Kejriwal has said that he has known his deputy for the past 22 years and is convinced that Sisodia is clean.

Did the new excise or liquor-vending policy help Delhi in any manner?

Yes and no. While the city's Excise Minister Manish Sisodia had claimed, “Delhi’s excise revenue was Rs 6,000 crore, but increased to Rs 9,500 crore. The of Rs 3,500 crore was checked by new excise policy,” media houses have quoted officials saying, "Of the amount they mentioned in their defence, Rs 980 crore is a refundable security deposit of the vendor licensees.”

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