New Delhi: The CBI on Friday carried out searches at the residences of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and IAS officer Arava Gopi Krishna besides at 19 other locations after registering an FIR in connection with the Delhi excise policy case, officials said.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered the FIR in connection with the alleged irregularities in formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy brought in November last year, they said.
As part of the operation, the CBI teams reached 21 locations in seven states and UTs including the premises of Sisodia and former Excise Commissioner Krishna, a 2012-batch IAS officer from the AGMUT cadre, they said.
Premises of two other public servants are also being searched.
Last month, Delhi LG VK Saxena had recommended a CBI probe into the Kejriwal government's Excise Policy, 2021-22 over alleged violations of rules and procedural lapses.
The CBI inquiry was recommended on the findings of the Delhi Chief Secretary's report filed in July showing prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR)-1993, Delhi Excise Act-2009 and Delhi Excise Rules-2010, they said.
According to officials, the report had shown prima facie violations, including "deliberate and gross procedural lapses", to provide post-tender "undue benefits to liquor licensees" through the policy.
A copy of the report was also sent to the chief minister, they said.
Apart from this there were also "deliberate and gross procedural lapses" to provide post tender "undue benefits to liquor licensees", said the officials.
Reacting to the raids, Sisodia said the CBI is welcome and asserted that the truth will come out.
In a series of tweet, the deputy chief minister said these people are troubled because of the excellent work done by the Delhi Government in health and education sectors.
"That is why ministers of both departments are targeted to stop us from good work in health and education sectors," he said referring to the arrest of Health Minister Satyendar Jain in a money laundering case.
"The allegations against both of us are lies. Truth will come out in court," he said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the CBI raid at his junior colleague's house was the result of his good performance which is being appreciated globally.
"The day Delhi's Education model was appreciated and Manish Sisodia's photo appeared on the front page of America's biggest newspaper NYT, the Centre sent CBI at the residence of Manish. CBI is welcome. Will extend full cooperation. Earlier also there were raids and probe. Nothing came out. Nothing will come out now also," Kejriwal tweeted.
It is alleged that undue financial favours were extended to liquor licensees after the tenders were awarded causing loss to exchequer.
The excise department had give a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore to the licensees on the tendered licence fee on the excuse of COVID-19, the sources claimed, adding that it also refunded the earnest money of Rs 30 crore to the lowest bidder for the licence of the airport zone when it failed to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from airport authorities.
"It was in gross violation of rule 48(11)(b) of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010, which clearly stipulates that the successful bidder must complete all formalities for the grant of the licence, failing which all deposits made by him shall stand forfeited to the government," one of the sources had said.
The Excise Policy, 2021-22, formulated on the basis of an expert committee report was implemented from November 17 last year and retail licences were issued under it to private bidders for 849 vends across the city, divided into 32 zones.
Several of its provisions such as slashing the number of dry days to three from 21 per year, the government's exit from retail liquor sale, allowing bars in hotels, restaurants to stay open till 3 am (awaiting police permission) and the retail licensees to offer rebates and schemes on alcohol were implemented by the excise department.
However, under the policy, many liquor stores failed to open for being located in non-conforming areas of the city. Several such vends were sealed by the municipal corporations for violations of the Master Plan.