New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday raided the house of top Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia over allegations of corruption in last November’s new excise policy to allow private players to run liquor outlets.
After registering an FIR (first information report), the CBI mounted searches at over 20 locations in the national capital even as Sisodia tweeted: CBI is here at my residence. I will cooperate with the probe agency. They will not find anything against me.
In another tweet, he said: CBI has arrived. We are honest, building a future of lakhs of children. Unfortunate that in this country, whoever does good work is hassled like this, that is why our country is still not No. 1.
Prohibitory orders were clamped around Sisodia’s home under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and a score of AAP workers assembling there were arrested. The residence of Delhi’s former excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna was also raided.
The Arvind Kejriwal government had scrapped the new excise policy last month-end after the state’s new lieutenant governor faulted it, allowing licensees to run the liquor shops only till Aug 31 and releasing the licences to government agencies to run them from Sep 1.
The CBI searches were authorised by Lt Governor VK Saxena on the basis of an inquiry report finding "irregularities" in the new excise policy. The agency secured sanction from Saxena under section 17A before filing the FIR against four government servants — Sisodia, two IAS officers and one DANICS (Delhi state cadre) officer.
There was no word on the CBI’s official website on the raids. The last news update on the website is about its searches in a case related to alleged frauds in coins of Rs11 crore.
The agency, however, began leaking information on its raids in the evening, claiming that it had seized confidential official files relating to the new excise policy from the residence of a "public servant" and asserting that they were not supposed to be kept at his residence. It did not, however, disclose who the public servant was, but sources said it could be Gopi Krishna.
AAP leaders said the BJP-run central government set the CBI on Sisodia after a positive front-page story in The New York Times on Aug 18 about the Delhi model of education. Sisodia holds the education and excise portfolios in the Delhi government.
As the CBI raided his deputy, an undeterred Kejriwal announced a "missed call" campaign urging people to join his "national mission".
"To join our national mission to make India No. 1, please give a missed call on 9510001000,” the chief minister said in a video address. “Let's take India on the top.”
AAP national spokesperson Sanjay Singh, MP, termed the CBI action "petty thinking of Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi” and asserted that the agency will not find anything against him.
AAP's Raghav Chaddha said the CBI had found nothing in past raids and would find nothing "but pencils and geometry boxes" at Sisodia’s home. "They raided Arvind Kejriwal, found four mufflers. And all they will find in Manish Sisodia's home are pencils, notebooks and geometry boxes," he remarked.
Delhi Congress president Anil Kumar said the party had written to then Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana in June about a "multi-crore scam" in the “illegal” distribution of liquor licences to “shell companies” and staged several protests demanding Sisodia’s resignation.
FIR NAMES 15: Fifteen persons, including Sisodia, are listed in the FIR on the alleged excise scam. The raids were conducted not only in Delhi but also across seven states and Union territories.
The liquor policy came under the scanner after Lt Governor Saxena recommended a CBI probe and suspended 11 excise officials in the matter. Sisodia, too, sought a CBI probe.
The CBI inquiry was recommended on the basis of the Delhi chief secretary's report filed in July showing prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act, 1991, Transaction of Business Rules, 1993, Delhi Excise Act, 2009, and Delhi Excise Rules, 2010.
PLACE IN JAIL: Meanwhile, BJP MP Gautam Gambhir attacked AAP asking why it withdrew the liquor policy if it were so clean. “Because Kejriwal knew they were going to get exposed,” he said. "When you have looted crores and crores of the taxpayers' money and made a liquor policy sitting with the liquor mafia, your place is not outside but in jail."