New Delhi: Former Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal had unilaterally brought a last-minute change in the excise policy which caused huge revenue loss to the city government and windfall gains to some vendors, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia claimed on Saturday, demanding a CBI probe into it.
Addressing a press conference, Sisodia said he has sent the details to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and hoped that the agency will conduct a thorough probe into the claims. He also alleged that the real corruption happened when Baijal brought in some key changes in the policy without holding any consultation with the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation.
The AAP minister also questioned under whose pressure did he make the modifications in the policy.
Baijal was the lieutenant governor when the city government prepared the new excise policy. The government had last week announced that it would revert to the old excise policy of running liquor vends.
Sisodia has also written to CBI director Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, detailing the “multiple abrupt lapses” on part of the former L-G right before the opening of the liquor vends that caused “losses of thousands of crores to the government”.
“The former Delhi L-G made changes in the new excise policy two days before shops were to open so he could extend special favours to a few liquor traders. The Delhi government had to bear a loss of thousands of crores due to his overnight step,” he said at the press conference.
Claiming Baijal had carefully examined and studied the excise policy and had even suggested changes as per his understanding, the Delhi deputy chief minister questioned, “Then why did he modify the policy 48 hours before shops were to be opened?
“Under the old excise policy, all the former L-Gs allowed opening of liquor stores in unauthorised colonies, then why was the policy modified so abruptly? Why were no objection certificates (NOC) from DDA-MCD added to it?” he asked.
“The government lost revenue worth thousands of crores because the then L-G changed his decision without discussing it with the cabinet, and passed the order without the elected government’s knowledge,” he added.
Detailing the timeline of the events, Sisodia said the new excise policy was passed in May 2021. Under this, the number of liquor shops was the same as it was as per the old excise policy — 849.
However, these 849 shops were unevenly distributed under the old policy.
“Some areas or wards had as many as 25 shops, while some areas had no shops. Some shopping malls had 10-15 shops or even 20 shops, while few markets did not have any shops. To change this, we kept a principle of equitable distribution of shops in the new excise policy.
“We had duly emphasised that the number of shops would not increase, but would be evenly spread. This was being done to avoid hooch tragedy or any other mishap or irregularity,” he explained.
The minister said when the cabinet sent the policy to the Lieutenant Governor for approval in May 2021, he read the policy in detail and gave “valuable suggestions to make changes in a number of provisions which were duly accepted by the cabinet”.
“The cabinet made those changes and again sent the policy to the L-G in June 2021 and he approved it,” said Sisodia.
“At the time of passing this policy, the L-G neither raised the issue of opening shops in unauthorised areas nor gave any suggestion to make a change in it. After his approval, the government issued the tenders under the policy. The licensee took the tender at a rate which was 25 per cent higher than the expected rate by the government,” he said.
Sisodia said the shops were supposed to open from November 17 last year.
“The L-G added a new condition on November 15 that approval of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was mandatory in order to open shops in unauthorised areas,” he said.
“He (Baijal) added this condition because he knew that it meant permission from L-G’s office for which the file would again come back to him. This U-turn was unexpected and shocking because of which shops could not get open in unauthorised areas,” he added.
The new licensees went to the court which directed them not to take any licence fees from shops in unauthorised areas. The court also ordered to give tha rebate on taxes and other relaxations as well.
The new excise policy would have resulted in massive gains to the exchequer, but what happened was exactly opposite, the AAP minister rued.
The current L-G, VK Saxena, has recommended a CBI probe into the alleged violation of rules and procedural lapses in the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22, under which licences were issued to private firms for retail sale of liquor in the city divided into 32 zones. —PTI
Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj hit out at the BJP for coming out in defense of the former L-G.
What is your problem if CBI investigates the matte and looks into the questions raised by the deputy chief minister? Why are you scared?” he asked.
The BJP should not try to save the former L-G. When we are welcoming the CBI probe, they (BJP) should also welcome it, Bharadwaj added.