Friday, February 3rd, 2023 16:37:37

Accused No. 1

By Nilabh Krishna
Updated: September 1, 2022 8:22 am

Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister of Delhi, was the target of three searches on August 19 by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), including one at his home. Sisodia, who is in charge of the excise department, is accused of corruption in the alcohol regulation process. The AamAadmi Party (AAP) government has denied the accusations. The raids led to a verbal argument between the AAP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Delhi deputy CM posted a number of tweets on the CBI raids. “We welcome CBI. Will give full cooperation in the investigation so that the truth can come out soon. Till now, many cases have been filed against me but nothing has come out. Nothing will come out of it either. My work cannot be stopped for good education in the country,” he wrote. He also wrote, “These people are troubled by the excellent work of Delhi’s education and health. That is why the Health Minister and Education Minister of Delhi have been arrested so that the good work of education health can be stopped. There are false allegations against both of us. The truth will come out in court.”

“The whole world is discussing the education and health model of Delhi. They want to stop it. That is why the raids and arrests on Delhi’s health and education ministers. Whoever tried to do good work in 75 years was stopped. That’s why India was left behind. Will not let Delhi’s good works stop,” wrote Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Twitter while defending his deputy.

The raids took place in conjunction with a New York Times piece regarding Delhi’s educational reform. The New York Times article highlighted Manish Sisodia, the AAP’s minister of education, and the ways in which the Delhi government was enhancing its educational system. The article has caused a rift between the BJP and the AAP, with the former alleging payment for the publication to place the article on the front page. It was labelled a “paid article” by the BJP.

Leaving aside the political turmoil these raids may have caused, it is interesting to note that Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister of Delhi, is identified as the accused number 1 in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) FIR that was filed in connection with the abnormalities in the Delhi government’s excise policy.

The FIR has been filed under Indian Penal Code Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 477-A (falsification of accounts). Sisodia is accused of giving liquor industry executives an exemption worth Rs 30 crore and granting licence holders extensions at their discretion. According to the FIR, the policy regulations were created by breaking the excise rules.The CBI searched 31 locations recently, including Sisodia’s Delhi home, in seven different states related to the case.

After the CBI filed a FIR alleging corruption and bribery in the creation and implementation of the Delhi Excise Policy released in November, searches were conducted at the home of the AAP leader, the residence of IAS officer and former excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, as well as 29 other locations, according to officials. Following a request for a CBI investigation from Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena, the policy was revoked in July of this year.

Based on

a referral from the Lieutenant  Governor’s office that was passed through the Union Home Ministry, the FIR was filed on August 17. The IPC section relating to criminal conspiracy and the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act have both been cited by the CBI. Government officials including Krishna, the previous Deputy Excise Commissioner Anand Tiwari, and assistant excise commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar, nine businessmen and two companies are among those named in the FIR.

At 8 am, the CBI started conducting raids across seven states. Due to the search operation’s expansion to 31 locations in Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, and Bengaluru, “incriminating” documents, articles, digital recordings, and other items were found, according to the officials. According to the damaging allegations in the FIR, which are based on “source information,” Sisodia and the accused public employees made decisions regarding the excise policy 2021–22 without seeking the necessary authority’s permission and with the “intention of giving undue advantages to the licensees post tender.”

According to the CBI’s spokesperson, irregularities were allegedly committed, including changes to the excise policy, giving licensees undue favours, waiving or reducing the licence price, and extending L-1 licences without permission. Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, claimed the agency had been “requested from above” to harass the party’s leaders. The AAP denounced the raids. The Delhi government was urged by the BJP to be transparent about its excise policies.

At least two payments totalingcrores are the subject of the CBI investigation. Sameer Mahendru, the owner of Indospirits and one of the alcohol merchants directly involved in the alleged irregularities in the formulation and execution of the excise policy, is accused of making these payments to “close associates” of Sisodia. Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Pvt. Limited in Gurugram, Dinesh Arora, and Arjun Pandey, were accused in the FIR of being Sisodia’s “close associates,” and they were “actively involved in managing and diverting the undue pecuniary advantage collected from liquor licensees” to the accused public officials.

Without going into further detail, the officials claimed that the three suspects were summoned to the CBI headquarters where their statements were recorded and they were shown some financial transaction records found during the searches. Accused were interrogated for approximately 12 hours before being released to go home. Officials claimed  that some of them would be called in again for interrogation. The officials stated that summons would be given to other suspects once the procedure of looking through the paperwork, electronic devices, and financial transactions is finished. The Enforcement Directorate, a financial investigation agency, has also been given access to the CBI FIR, which was filed before a special court and will investigate the claims of money laundering.

The CBI raids on Manish Sisodia’s home in Delhi show how committed the investigative agencies are to learning the truth about the corruption allegations and making sure the offenders are held accountable. Similar measures have been taken against civil workers who are allegedly involved in profiting from the Delhi Government’s new alcohol policy.

The entire opposition is outraged over this and accusing the BJP-led Union government of having a political vendetta, but they are blissfully oblivious to the fact that the raids were not unexpected and that anyone who was aware of how Delhi’s excise policy was changed knew that something was “Gadbad.”

Following a thorough investigation, the chief secretary’s report made it evident that there was financial reciprocity at the highest political level. Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena’s request for a CBI investigation is not without cause.

The FIR makes it abundantly evident that media outlets, consulting companies, and members of the AamAadmi Party were profiting while doing favours for the alcohol lobby. They will likely be apprehended quickly, and justice will be served. When Delhi’s health minister, Satyendra Jain, was detained by the Enforcement Directorate for money laundering, similar claims of political vengeance were raised. He is accused of creating front firms to launder money without engaging in any commercial activities.

Opposition parties are attempting to give the AAP’s moral low, which it reached after leading the fight against corruption, the appearance of political vengeance rather than criticising it. It is naive to claim that the AAP’s coverage of Delhi’s school system in the New York Times is what prompted the raids. The NYT is the same publication that had exhibited an anti-Modi bias while inviting applications for its South Asia correspondent.

The nationwide raids on politicians and government officials have made it clear to everyone that corruption will not be tolerated. This fits very well with Prime Minister Modi’s intent to launch a full-scale campaign against corruption. Those who may have believed they could avoid the long arms of the law should take seriously Modi’s call from the Red Fort ramparts for people to unite in the battle against dynasty politics and corruption.

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