The Supreme Court on Monday denied bail to ex-Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in the liquor excise policy case, noting that a money trail of Rs 338 crore had been “tentatively established” and that the “rule of law applies equally to all citizens and institutions, including the State”.
In refusing Mr Sisodia bail, the court accepted the CBI’s argument against the Aam Aadmi Party leader – that there is a “carefully hatched conspiracy… (to) assure unjust enrichment” of a select few, and that the policy “facilitated getting bribes” from wholesale distributors “assured exorbitant profits”.
In a 41-page order the top court also noted the CBI’s claim that the now-withdrawn policy “favoured and promoted cartelisation”, pointing to the permit granted to Indo Spirit despite several such complaints.
However, the court also noted the claim a Rs 2.2 crore bribe was paid to Mr Sisodia by Amit Arora, via businessman Dinesh Arora is “not a charge or allegation made in chargesheet filed by CBI”. The court said, “It may be difficult to regard alleged payment as a ‘proceed of crime’ (under PMLA).”
Mr Sisodia can apply for bail again after three months, a two-judge bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti said. Earlier the court had said Manish Sisodia could not be kept in jail indefinitely.
What Did Supreme Court Say In Manish Sisodia Bail Plea?
The court noted the CBI’s claim that the previous policy had been modified to facilitate bribes from wholesale distributors by enhancing their commission from five per cent to 12 per cent.
This change, the court said, meant they earned seven per cent more commission for the 10 months the policy was in place. This figure, which “cannot be challenged”, is Rs 338 crore, the court added.
So. the policy – which deviated from expert opinions on Mr Sisodia’s orders, according to the CBI – was created to provide windfall gains to select distributors in return for kickbacks, the court added.
On that larger claim – of kickbacks of Rs 100 crore as alleged by the Enforcement Directorate – the court called it a “matter of debate”. There is, though, the court said “evidence and material” indicated that Rs 45 crore “was transferred through Hawala for the Goa election and used by AAP…”
Significantly, the court also pointed out that the AAP – which the ED had argued is a “person” under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act – is not the one being prosecuted in this instance.
“The charge that the appellant – Manish Sisodia is vicariously liable in terms of Section 70 of the PML Act cannot be alleged and has not been argued,” the court noted.
The CBI had alleged Mr Sisodia was “aware that three liquor manufacturers have 85 per cent share in Delhi market… as per the new exercise policy, each manufacturer could appoint only one wholesale distributor (but) wholesale distributors could enter into agreements with multiple manufacturers”.
The court accepted the claim that this “favoured and promoted cartelisation”, noting “large wholesale distributors with high market share… were ensured to earn exorbitant profits”.
The court also referred to the role of Vijay Nair – described as the “go-between” and “co-confidante” of Mr Sisodia – and that he had “assured” the “South Group” cartel they would be made (and they were made) distributors for Pernod Ricard, one of the biggest liquor manufacturers in the domestic market.
What Is Delhi Liquor Policy Case?
The case pertains to the now-scrapped 2021 policy, under which the ruling AAP withdrew from liquor sales and allowed private individuals to run stores.
The Delhi government reported a 27 per cent increase in income from the policy and generated Rs 8,900 crore in revenue. Trouble, however, erupted after reports Mr Sisodia had bent, if not violated, rules to award liquor licenses.
Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena then ordered a CBI inquiry that then snowballed into an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate and the arrests of the senior AAP leader and others.
The agency has claimed the policy lost the Delhi government Rs 2,800 crore.
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