Delhi CM Kejriwal Arrested: What’s The Now-Repealed Liquor Policy Scam Case?

The Delhi excise policy case involves two separate investigations, one by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the other by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The case originated from a report submitted by the Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) Vinai Kumar Saxena in July 2022.

The report highlighted alleged procedural lapses in the formulation of the policy that resulted in financial losses of over Rs 580 crore to the exchequer.

It was alleged that the then Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, in his capacity as Excise Minister, made arbitrary and unilateral decisions that resulted in these losses. The report further claimed that the AAP Delhi government and AAP leaders received kickbacks from owners and operators of alcohol businesses for preferential treatment such as discounts and extensions in license fees, waiver on penalties, and relief due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, among others.

The ED alleged that these kickbacks were used to influence the Assembly elections held in Punjab and Goa in early 2022, in which the AAP went on to form the government in Punjab. The CBI named Sisodia and 14 other accused in its FIR, including AAP communications in-charge Vijay Nair, while the ED alleged that the scam was to give the wholesale liquor business to private entities and fix a 12% margin, for a 6% kickback.

In November 2021, the ED filed its first prosecution complaint and claimed that the policy was formulated with deliberate loopholes that promoted cartel formations through the back door to benefit AAP leaders.

The ED also alleged that AAP leaders received kickbacks to the tune of Rs 100 crore from a group of individuals identified as the “South Group”. Recently, K Kavitha, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader and daughter of former Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, was arrested allegedly for being part of this ‘South Group’.

On March 18, the ED alleged for the first time that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was a conspirator in the case. The ED claimed that Kejriwal, along with Manish Sisodia, conspired with Kavitha and others in the formulation and implementation of the Delhi excise policy.

In exchange for these favours, Kavitha allegedly paid Rs 100 crore to the leaders of AAP. In a supplementary prosecution complaint, the ED alleged that Kejriwal himself spoke to one of the main accused, Sameer Mahendru, over a video call and asked him to continue working with co-accused Vijay Nair whom he referred to as “his boy”.

In the Delhi High Court on March 21, Kejriwal’s counsel claimed that the ED summonses to him were being sent “at the behest of the BJP”. The counsel further argued that the ED was attempting to create a non-level playing field and the summons issued to the AAP convenor were vague, arbitrary, and amounted to a fishing and roving inquiry.

The ED’s summons did not disclose the capacity in which Kejriwal was being summoned – as an individual, a CM, and a national convenor of AAP. The summons also didn’t disclose the details of the reason, whether he is a witness or a suspect and was devoid of any information or document required from the CM.