Delhi excise policy case: CBI postpones questioning on Sisodia’s request
The CBI has postponed the interrogation of Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in the excise policy scam case, granting his request.
Sisodia on Sunday (February 19) requested the investigating agency for a postponement, stating that the Delhi government was currently engaged in Budget planning. The agency had earlier asked him to appear for questioning on Sunday.
The central probe agency accepted Sisodia’s application to defer the questioning and will give a new date soon, officials said. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, who is also the finance minister of Delhi, has said he would be available for questioning after a week.
Sisodia on Sunday also claimed the BJP was using the probe agency to take “revenge” from him and expressed apprehension that he would be arrested.
During its probe into the money trail and links among liquor traders, AAP leaders, middlemen, and politicians, the CBI has gathered elaborate materials on which it needs the clarifications from Sisodia who is the prime accused in the FIR, officials said.
The agency had filed its first charge sheet against seven persons on November 25 last year, in which Sisodia was not named as an accused.
Three months later, the agency said it has stumbled upon details of meetings, message exchanges and transactions on which explanation could be sought from the deputy chief minister, who holds the charge of the excise department, they said.
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The CBI is also armed with the concessional statement of Dinesh Arora, alleged to be Sisodia’s “close associate” who is understood to have spilled the beans about how the excise policy was allegedly swung in favour of some liquor traders and the “South Lobby” of Hyderabad-based politicians and alcohol traders who are under the agencies’ scanner.
The deputy chief minister said he has asked for a postponement till February last week, as he was “finalising the Budget of Delhi and it is a crucial time”.
“I have told them that I will come after the last week of February. It is my duty as finance minister to present the Budget on time and I have been working 24 hours for it. I have requested the CBI to allow me to come after the last week of February and answer all their questions,” he told reporters.
Referring to the apex court’s order to issue a notice to convene the first meeting of the civic body to fix the date of the mayoral elections, the AAP leader told PTI, “The BJP lost elections and then they lost again on Friday in the Supreme Court. So this is their revenge.”
“They are using the CBI to take revenge, and I am sure they will do that by getting me arrested,” he charged.
“I have always cooperated with the CBI and ready to do it again but I am just seeking time as I am finalising the Budget, and if I go now, the Budget will suffer and the people of Delhi will suffer,” he said.
Maintaining that he was not scared of getting arrested or going to jail, Sisodia said he “just wants time to finish the Budget” and he has “all answers to the questions of the CBI”.
The deputy chief minister was earlier questioned on October 17 last year and his home and bank lockers were also searched in connection with the case.
It is alleged the Delhi government’s policy to grant licences to liquor traders favoured certain dealers who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge strongly denied by the AAP.
“It was further alleged that irregularities were committed, including modifications in excise policy, extending undue favours to the licensees, waiver/reduction in licence fee, extension of L-1 license without approval, etc.
“It was also alleged that illegal gains on the count of these acts were diverted to public servants concerned by private parties by making false entries in their books of accounts,” a CBI spokesperson had said.
Recently, the CBI arrested Butchibabu Gorantla, a former chartered accountant of K Kavitha, a BRS MLC in Telangana and daughter of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
It is alleged that Butchibabu had met several accused named in the FIR in Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai and was one of the prime negotiators from the South Lobby, which wanted to swing the now-scrapped excise policy for 2021-22 in its favour. The CBI also questioned Kavitha in connection with the case in December last year.
During its probe, the CBI found evidence that Butchibabu acted on behalf of the South Lobby comprising the Telangana MLC, YSRCP MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, and Aurobindo Pharma’s P Sarat Chandra Reddy.
(With agency inputs)