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HomePoliticsIn Haryana, it's Chautala vs Chautala over 'liquor scam' — 'govt, distillery...

In Haryana, it’s Chautala vs Chautala over ‘liquor scam’ — ‘govt, distillery owners all involved’

The INLD MLA says liquor shortfall 'scam' is worth several thousand crore rupees & that alcohol is being smuggled to dry states, holds nephew deputy CM Dushyant responsible. 

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Chandigarh: During a raid by the Haryana excise and taxation (E&T) department on two L-13 godowns — wholesale godowns of country liquor — in Sonipat district in September, 10 lakh boxes of country liquor worth nearly Rs 100 crore were allegedly found to be missing.

This issue of shortfall of liquor — which sparked a big row in the winter session of the state assembly in December — has led to a war of words between Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) MLA Abhay Singh Chautala and his estranged nephew, Haryana deputy CM Dushyant Chautala. Dushyant also holds the E&T department portfolio in CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s cabinet.

After the contractors of both L-13 godowns failed to produce a record of where the missing liquor had been sold, the E&T department had imposed an additional excise duty worth Rs 28 crore on one contractor and Rs 12 crore on the other.

Speaking to ThePrint Monday, Neel Ratan, deputy excise and taxation commissioner, Sonipat, said that one of the two liquor contractor firms, Jai Krishan and Co, has deposited the additional excise plus penalty amounting to Rs 28.5 crore with the department, while the other firm, Sunder Singh and Co, has approached a local court and obtained a stay on the additional excise plus penalty of Rs 12.31 crore.

“The court has restrained us from taking any coercive action against the firm,” he added.

ThePrint reached Satish Tyagi, a partner at Jai Krishan and Co, and Sunder Singh via phone calls, but did not receive a response. This story will be updated once a response is received.

On 6 December, 2022, the Haryana state government had suspended three E&T department officers — deputy E&T commissioner Naresh Kumar; assistant E&T commissioner Kashmir Singh Kamboj; and excise inspector Rampal Singh — for their involvement in the alleged scam.

Abhay Singh Chautala has said that as part of the “scam”, which he alleged is worth several thousand crore rupees, the liquor from Haryana is being smuggled to dry states Gujarat and Bihar in connivance with those in power, resulting in huge revenue loss to the state exchequer.

Abhay, whose calling attention motion on this issue was first admitted during the winter session, was later stopped from speaking by the Deputy Speaker since the matter, he said, was “sub-judice”.

“The figure of 10 lakh boxes being mentioned by the officials is just the tip of the iceberg as the scam runs into several thousand crores,” said Abhay Singh Chautala to ThePrint. “People in power, government officials, distillery owners and liquor contractors are all involved in the scam. Had I been allowed to speak on my calling attention motion, I would have directly named Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala….”

Chautala also questioned why no FIR has been lodged when the government has caught pilferage of funds and why just a penalty has been imposed.

“I have never heard the Speaker disallow discussion on a calling attention motion simply because a liquor dealer has moved court against a fine imposed on him. This doesn’t make a case ‘sub-judice’. Further, a matter being sub-judice doesn’t debar the state assembly from holding discussions on a calling attention motion on this issue,” he added, demanding a CBI probe.

Dushyant Chautala, however, brushed aside all allegations and said the state government didn’t incur any financial loss in this case.

“The Excise duty was already paid on the stock lying in the L-13 godowns. The state government levied additional excise on the entire missing stock and also imposed an equal amount as penalty on contractors,” said Dushyant speaking to ThePrint Sunday.

He claimed that ever since he took over the E&T portfolio, the revenue from excise has increased from Rs 60,00 crore to Rs 10,000 crore, adding that even during the current year, the revenue from excise is 22 per cent higher than last year for the corresponding period.

On his uncle’s allegations of Haryana liquor finding its way to dry states, Dushyant said, “Let him come with proof if he has any.”

Also read: Why does Haryana hold eligibility tests for contractual teachers? Merit only 1/5th of criteria

Shortfall of stock & its implications

An E&T department official, who wished to not be named, explained that when liquor comes to a wholesale godown from distilleries, the excise duty on the liquor is already paid. However, the government fixes a quarterly quota for every contractor to sell.

Any stocks sold in addition to the quota involve an additional excise duty, the official said, and if the additional stock is sold without the permission of the department, that too invites an equal amount as penalty.

Abhay Singh Chautala, however, alleged the excise officials were being made scapegoats in the case as they were not allowed to check stocks of L-13 because of political patronage to contractors. He also said that when stocks of liquor come to L-13 from distilleries, excise is paid on hardly half the stock. The rest, he added, “comes without bills by evading all kinds of taxes and excise duties”.

Government flip-flop on calling attention motion

On the last day of the winter session of Haryana Vidhan Sabha on 28 December, 2022, the Opposition disrupted the proceedings of the House post lunch after the Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa first admitted Abhay Singh Chautala’s calling attention motion on this issue but later refused to discuss it. The entire Opposition, including the Congress, was seen standing with Abhay Singh Chautala on this issue.

They were particularly angry over how the government could refuse discussion after the written reply to the motion had already been submitted.

Dushyant Chautala, though, stood up and said, “When Deputy Speaker took up this calling attention notice, he was apprised that the matter is sub-judice. Till the concerned reply is not dictated orally by the minister concerned on the floor of the House, it cannot be considered as a reply of the government.”

The next day, Speaker Gian Chand Gupta told mediapersons that the legal advice of the advocate general (AG) will be sought on whether matters that are sub-judice can be discussed in the State Assembly or not.

Responding to a question, Gupta added that if the government wanted to dodge the discussion on the calling attention notice, the Speaker could have rejected it without any question being asked when the MLA had moved it.

When ThePrint contacted Haryana AG Baldev Mahajan to know about the legal advice ‘sought’ by the Assembly Speaker, he said his office had not received any such file.

Prior instance of ‘shortfall’

This is not the first time liquor stocks have gone missing from Sonipat wholesale godowns. In May 2020, liquor stocks were found missing from two liquor godowns in the district at a time when the country was under complete lockdown and even the liquor vends were closed. The government had then constituted a special investigation team (SIT) headed by IAS officer T.C. Gupta to look into the matter.

In his report submitted in August 2020, Gupta said the shortfall could not be probed and attributed this to the “dillydallying by the excise department” in parting with the information sought by the SIT.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: How Haryana is planning to slash number of govt departments with mergers & reorganisation


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