Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s questioning by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday (April 16) largely revolved around the Excise Policy formulation process, mostly regarding a purported “untraceable file” containing public, legal and expert committee opinions on the policy and which allegedly never made it to the Council of Ministers.
The probe agency on Friday (April 14) issued summons to the Delhi Chief Minister in connection with its probe into the now-scrapped 2021-2022 excise policy. Kejriwal appeared before the CBI as a witness to answer their questions based on the inputs the investigation team had collected during the probe against his deputy Manish Sisodia.
Also read: CBI grills Kejriwal for 9 hours in excise policy case; “dirty politics,” says Delhi CM
Addressing media persons from his residence around 9 pm on Sunday, Kejriwal said he was asked 56 questions by the probe agency and that he answered all of them in a satisfactory manner.
According to sources, and later corroborated by Kejriwal, CBI’s 56-question poser sought to understand his role in formulating the excise policy and his knowledge about the alleged influence being cast by the traders and ‘South liquor lobby’ members. The agency also quizzed the AAP supremo on the statements of other accused, where they have indicated the manner in which the policy was allegedly influenced to favour some liquor businessmen and the South liquor lobby.
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The exhaustive list of questions primarily revolved around the following five pressing points:
1) What was the process of formulation of the new excise policy? What was your role? Did Manish Sisodia take instructions from you for all the decisions he took?
2) As per the excise secretary you were the one who gave the Group of Ministers’ (GoM) report. This happened at your residence. Is it true or not?
3) Where are the files of cabinet meeting and documents related to the decisions? A file containing opinions of the expert committee and public and legal opinions on the excise policy was not kept before the council and remains untraceable. Can you explain the reason?
4) Do you know Vijay Nair (Indian businessman and one of the accused in the case)? How did he get involved in formulation and execution of the new excise policy? On whose behalf was he meeting liquor manufacturers and distributors?
5) Manish Sisodia gave undue benefits to liquor licensees by revising the rates of foreign liquor by removing the levy of an import pass fee of ₹50 per case of beer. When did you come to know about these details?
The Delhi government led by Kejriwal introduced a new liquor excise policy in November 2021 that sought to shut down 600 government-operated vends to pave way for new, privately-owned shops, marking the exit of the government from selling liquor.
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The policy, however, was scrapped on July 30, 2022, by the Delhi government after Lieutenant Governor Vinay Kumar Saxena recommended a CBI probe into allegations of whether undue benefits were being extended to liquor licensees at the cost of the public exchequer.
In its first charge-sheet filed on November 25, 2022, the CBI alleged that the Delhi government’s excise policy for 2021-22 was framed in a manner to promote monopoly at the wholesale level and cartelisation.