Jain was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate for his alleged involvement in a money-laundering case in May last year
New Delhi: After the Supreme Court refused to entertain Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s plea seeking bail and asked him to move the high court on Tuesday, Mr Sisodia and his jailed Cabinet colleague Satyendar Jain resigned from their posts. The resignations of the two ministers were swiftly accepted by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Mr Sisodia, who heads 18 of 33 departments in government of Delhi-NCT, was arrested Sunday following eight hours of questioning by the CBI in an excise policy case. He moved a bail petition in the Supreme Court, which has asked him to approach the Delhi high court first. The AAP has decided to move the high court now.
Mr Jain was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate for his alleged involvement in a money-laundering case in May last year. The former health minister has been in Tihar Jail ever since he was arrested by the ED. After Mr Jain’s arrest, Mr Sisodia was allocated the former’s health portfolio over and above the ones he was already handling.
Mr Sisodia, who also holds the crucial finance portfolio, was arrested by the CBI for alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped liquor policy for 2021-22 in the national capital. His arrest holds immense significance as it has come at a time when the Delhi government is in the process of presenting its annual budget.
Before the duo’s resignation, the Delhi government had a total of six ministers, with Mr Sisodia alone handling 18 portfolios. Gopal Rai, Kailash Gahlot, Imran Hussain and Raj Kumar Anand are the other ministers.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said that two new ministers would soon be inducted into the Arvind Kejriwal Cabinet. He, however, refused to elaborate on who could be the new faces in the Delhi Cabinet. There are chances that till the new ministers are inducted, the portfolios held by Mr Sisodia could be distributed between Mr Gahlot and Mr Anand. A highly placed source said that Mr Gahlot could also present this year’s budget of the Delhi government.
In the Supreme Court, a bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha refused to entertain Mr Sisodia’s petition. The bench said: “We are not inclined to entertain the petition under Article 32 at this stage.” The bench observed that just because the incident has happened in New Delhi, Mr Sisodia cannot come to the apex court directly as he has his remedies before the trial court concerned as well as the Delhi high court.
Senior advocate Abhishek “Manu” Singhvi, appearing for Mr Sisodia, questioned the need to arrest the AAP leader, saying that policy decisions were taken at different rungs and, moreover, no money was recovered. He also said that the lieutenant-governor was also part of the policy decision in regard to the excise policy.
Mr Singhvi urged the court to grant relief while questioning why there was any need of arrest. He also said Mr Sisodia was not a flight risk and in the past had appeared before the CBI for questioning. As the apex court observed that it would not entertain the plea at this stage, Mr Singhvi withdrew it.
Hitting out at the AAP, the BJP described it as a party of “cut, commission and corruption”, and said its leaders, Mr Sisodia and Mr Jain, should have resigned from the Cabinet much earlier when the graft allegations against them had come to light. Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said people who claimed to be the “flag bearers of the fight against corruption” have ensured governance that “increases the number of alcohol users in Delhi”.
Without naming any party, Mr Prasad said he thought cut and commission was the legacy of only one political party. “But today, I must say that 3C -- cut, commission and corruption -- also applies for Kejriwal’s party,” Mr Prasad said, and added that AAP leaders have defamed the anti-corruption agitation led by Anna Hazare.
“They should have resigned earlier. Jain has resigned several months after his arrest and Sisodia should have resigned at the time when the allegations against them came out,” the former law minister said, addressing a press conference. He described the liquor scam case in Delhi as a “fixed textbook case of corruption”, he said that the BJP will raise the issue in every corner of the country.
BJP MP Manoj Tiwari said the repercussions of the probe into the Delhi excise policy case will soon reach the “mastermind”. In a tweet, he said: “Satyamev Jayate… No relief from Supreme Court... Liquor minister will reveal all secrets and the repercussions of the investigation will also reach the mastermind.”
Taking potshots at the BJP, the AAP labelled the saffron party a “washing machine” for leaders facing scams, rape cases and murder charges in the wake of the arrest of Mr Sisodia in the excise policy case. In a poster shared on its official Twitter handle, the AAP posted a list of leaders, who were embroiled in various cases before joining the BJP, and referred to them as “satisfied customers” who got the special bonus of “No CBI-ED raids”.
The ruling party in Delhi also called the BJP the “favourite washing machine of sinners”, or “Paapiyon Ki Pasand Bhajpa -- Washing Machine Bhajpa”. Sharing another document titled “Equality Before the Law?” on Twitter, the AAP mentioned the names of Narayan Rane, Suvendu Adhikari, Himanta Biswas Sarma, among others, who were facing various charges, but the probe was apparently “stopped” after they joined the BJP.
Last year, Mr Sisodia had alleged that he was offered the chief ministerial post if he joined the BJP along with some MLAs. He also claimed that he was told that the CBI and ED cases against him would be scrapped if he accepted the offer.