New Delhi: Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was arrested Sunday at 7.15 pm by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after he was questioned for about nine hours in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped liquor policy in the national capital.
Sisodia, who was accused No. 1 in the first information report (FIR) registered by the agency, was not among them the seven people against whom the CBI filed its first charge sheet in November last year.
An official said Sisodia’s answers during interrogation were found not to be satisfactory.
Sources in the CBI said that Sisodia was not cooperating with the investigation.
“The Dy CM was issued a notice u/s 41A Cr.P.C for attending the investigation on 19.02.2023. However, he sought time of one week citing his pre-occupation. Accepting his request, he was issued a notice u/s 41A Cr.P.C for attending the investigation today (on 26.02.2023) for answering various questions evaded by him during his examination on 17.10.2022 and further questions relating to his incriminating role based on evidence collected during investigation of the case,” the CBI said in an official statement after Sisodia’s arrest.
“However, he gave evasive replies and did not co-operate the investigation despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary. Therefore, he has been arrested,” it added.
According to the agency, a few contentious provisions were added to the Delhi Liquor Policy, which weren’t part of the first draft.“Manish Sisodia failed to explain how those provisions were included in the final draft, and mostly claimed that he doesn’t know. However, the statement of an excise department officer has revealed that Sisodia played a role in tweaking the drafts, Moreover, there is no record available in the excise department on how these amendments were made/included in the final draft,” a source said.
The Delhi deputy CM will be produced in court Monday morning, the investigative agency said.
Sisodia is currently lodged at the CBI headquarters, where the security has been stepped up.
Section 144 was imposed and elaborate security arrangements were made outside the agency’s office and the deputy CM’s house, even as he was being questioned. Members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) protested in the morning and several leaders and workers were detained. According to the Delhi Police, 50 people were detained.
Earlier in the day, Sisodia said that he would fully cooperate with the CBI, which had summoned him for questioning, asserting that he did not care if he had to go to jail over “false allegations”.
In a tweet in Hindi, he said: “Today, I am going to the CBI. Will fully cooperate in the probe. I have the love of lakhs of children and crores of countrymen with me. Even if I have to go to jail for a few months, I do not care. We are followers of Bhagat Singh. Bhagat Singh died for the country. If I have to go to jail over such false allegations, it is a small thing.”
Soon after the arrest, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that Sisodia is “innocent”.
मनीष बेक़सूर हैं। उनकी गिरफ़्तारी गंदी राजनीति है। मनीष की गिरफ़्तारी से लोगों में बहुत रोष है। लोग सब देख रहे हैं। लोगों को सब समझ आ रहा है। लोग इसका जवाब देंगे।
इस से हमारे हौसले और बढ़ेंगे। हमारा संघर्ष और मज़बूत होगा।
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 26, 2023
He had also posted a series of tweets on his deputy earlier in the day. Speaking at an event Friday, he had said: “The CBI has called Manish Sisodia for questioning. Our sources are saying that he will be arrested on Sunday… It is very sad.”
We will take care of ur family Manish, don’t worry. https://t.co/ZoTQIpMOCr
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 26, 2023
The CBI said Sunday evening: “The Central Bureau of Investigation has arrested Dy Chief Minister of GNCTD, Delhi in an ongoing investigation of a case related to alleged irregularities in framing & implementation of the excise policy of GNCTD. The instant case was registered against Deputy Chief Minister & In charge Excise Minister, GNCTD of Delhi and 14 others for investigation into the matter of alleged irregularities in framing & implementation of Excise Policy for the year 2021-22 and extending post tender benefits to private persons.”
Also Read: ‘Rs 100 cr kickbacks, cartels & Facetime call with Kejriwal’: ED chargesheet in liquor scam case
‘Dark day’, say AAP leaders
Earlier in the day, prominent AAP leaders issued statements on the impending arrest, defending Sisodia, and attacking the BJP.
Speaking at a press conference Sunday, AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha said: “The entire country is aware that only Arvind Kejriwal can defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the electoral battle and that is why the BJP is making all possible attempts to use the CBI and ED to attack AAP leaders such as Manish Sisodia.”
He added that all the allegations against Sisodia are baseless and the only reason he is being targeted is that the BJP wants to “finish off” Kejriwal.
MCD Mayor Dr Shelly Oberoi accused the BJP of trying to prevent AAP from becoming popular across the country under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal. She described the CBI enquiry against Sisodia as a “ploy to arrest him in order to slow down the revolution of CM Arvind Kejriwal”. She said today was as a “dark day” in India’s history as an “honest education minister of a clean government” was arrested.
AAP MLA Shri Dilip Pandey described the allegations against Shri Manish Sisodia as a “pack of jokes” and accused the BJP of attacking the 18 lakh families in Delhi who have entrusted the future of their children to him.
The Enforcement Directorate, which is probing allegations of money laundering based on the CBI FIR, also didn’t name Sisodia as an accused in its supplementary chargesheet. However, his role has been mentioned. The ED’s second charge sheet mentions that accused people and suspects, including Sisodia used phones and SIM cards purchased on other people’s names to evade suspicion.
The CBI had registered an FIR last year, to probe alleged irregularities in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy introduced in November 2021.
It followed up with raids in Sisodia’s office and home, among the 21 locations in seven states it searched. Sisodia holds the Finance portfolio among others of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi.
It is alleged that undue financial favours were extended to liquor licensees after tenders were awarded, which caused a loss to the exchequer.
It is further alleged that the excise department waived off Rs 144.36 crore to licensees on the tendered licence fee — making COVID an excuse.
The probe agency has claimed the government refunded the earnest money of Rs 30 crore to the lowest bidder for the licence of the airport zone when it failed to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from airport authorities.
The CBI inquiry was recommended on the findings of the Delhi Chief Secretary’s report filed in July last year which apparently highlighted prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, the Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR)-1993, the Delhi Excise Act-2009 and the Delhi Excise Rules-2010, they said.
Delhi Lieutenant General V.K. Saxena then recommended a CBI probe into the Arvind Kejriwal government’s Excise Policy 2021-22, which has since been withdrawn.
Sukriti Vats contributed to this report.
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