Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia is the highest profile politician to be arrested in the excise scam case, said to involve the paying of substantial bribes. Given the environment of recent times in which several arrests as well as charges of harassment have been made, a ready conclusion to be drawn is that the central agencies are under pressure to act against netas of Opposition parties.
Shows of solidarity by the AAP in the form of demonstrations in several cities only add to the highly charged political nature of arrests made under the Prevention of Corruption Act. To see the case of the Delhi liquor policies having undergone changes in isolation is difficult considering the circumstances. And yet liquor sales are the very fount of corruption in the country and virtually any politician or bureaucrat dealing with policies governing its marketing can be assailed under laws against graft.
The point is simple. Can the CBI and the ED, which have been investigating the Delhi liquor scandal for a couple of years, prove with clear forensic evidence that largescale graft was involved in this case? The spread of financial fraud is easy enough to see, but the task gets much harder when it comes to proving that fraud, exposing the money trail and pinning it all on the primary players in what are conspiracies to profit illegally.
There were early warning signs in the change of liquor policy with the avowed good intention of contributing to improving the experience of the end user while also getting the government out of directly running the business of liquor vends. The policy (Delhi Excise Policy of 2021-22) for which Sisodia is being blamed now was scrapped as a probable scam has been revealed.
Much light has been shed on a whole network of individuals in businessmen, netas and bureaucrats and the hand of a “South Group” suspected as the agencies worked on this case of alleged serious fraud. The agencies claim to have retrieved deleted files while also holding digitally recorded proceedings of policy meetings that are clinching evidence.
The PCA Act is stringent with the accused having to prove their innocence beyond doubt. Court convictions in some cases took decades. While delays alone should not scare away investigation, it is only fair — considering the profile of the arrested AAP netas who were ministers — that the cases come to court quickly to give the dispensers of justice a chance to arrive at a conclusion quickly. Until then, only conjecture will prevail along with predictable accusations of the use of the process as punishment.