#WhatTheFAQ: Why did CBI raid Delhi Minister Manish Sisodia's residence? Why is Delhi’s Excise Policy an issue?

Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s house was raided by the CBI on Friday, August 19 over allegations of corruption in the state’s Excise Policy. But what is the controversy around it?
Find out why the raids were conducted | Pic: EdexLive
Find out why the raids were conducted | Pic: EdexLive

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday, August 19, conducted raids in seven states and Union Territories including 21 locations in Delhi after they registered a case with regards to the alleged irregularities in the new Excise Policy that was launched in November last year. In addition to Manish Sisodia’s house, the probe teams also conducted raids on the premises of three other officials. 

But why were the raids conducted? What is the Excise Policy and what has been the reaction to it?

Why were the raids conducted? What were the allegations?

The CBI carried out searches at the minister’s home after Lieutenant Governor Saxena recommended a CBI probe last month following the release of a report from the Delhi Chief Secretary that alleged “irregularities” in Delhi's new liquor policy. He accused the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of introducing the Excise Policy "with the sole aim" of benefiting private liquor barons. According to reports, the CBI in its FIR claimed that a liquor trader paid Rs 1 crore to a company managed by an associate of Sisodia. The CBI is also investigating another claim that the Excise Department under the minister gave a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore on the tendered license fee to licensees on the grounds of COVID-19. This, as mentioned by reports, went against the Delhi Excise Rules 2010, which mandated that a successful bidder must complete all formalities for the grant of the license.

What is the New Excise Policy of Delhi?

The Delhi government introduced the new excise policy which was effective from November 15, 2021. It withdrew four state government corporations from the liquor business that earlier ran almost half of all the liquor vends in Delhi and were responsible for nearly 50 per cent of liquor sales in the city, as stated by a report in The New Indian Express. This pushed the state’s liquor trade into the hands of private players, the report added. The new policy also gave retail licenses to private bidders for 849 vends across the city that were divided into 32 zones, according to reports. Additionally, the policy also slashed the number of dry days from 21 days to three. 

Why was it criticised?

Critics point out that the policy is said to be leaning in favour of the wholesalers, giving them the power to treat retailers differently. It has given a handful of wholesalers offering brands of Pernod Ricard India and Diageo India significant control over the supply to retail vends and the quantum of discount to be offered, as stated in a report by The New Indian Express. Additionally, a few months after the zone system came into place, several zonal retailers surrendered their licenses citing unfair competition and the fact that the policy gave a free opportunity to the manufacturers to offer discounts and incentives to the retailers, which didn’t exist in the earlier Excise Policy. Earlier, Delhi’s liquor had a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model but it had been privatised completely with the new policy.

Other than the impact on retailers, residents in the city too faced a shortage of liquor as there was scarcity in many outlets in the city. In fact, the BJP had also protested outside Sisodia’s house in July demanding his resignation over the alleged corruption allegations. The leaders had claimed that by allowing liquor shops in residential areas, schools and religious places, the government violated all moral norms and rules, as stated in a report by PTI. 

What were some other allegations?

It was also alleged that the six highest bidders controlled the entire liquor market in the national capital, once the policy was introduced, according to reports. Additionally, every bidder acquired the rights to a particular zone only after paying an enormous fee, hence, to recover this amount, they introduced multiple schemes and sales offers, as pointed out by reports.

What else happened a day before the raids?

Surprisingly, a day before the raids were conducted on the minister’s house, The New York Times newspaper carried a front-page report appreciating the AAP-led Delhi government's education model. AAP leaders claimed that a day after a “positive” story was carried out by the newspaper, the ruling government sent the CBI to Sisodia’s home. In response, the BJP leaders claimed that it was a “paid article,” according to reports. However, The New York Times issued a statement refuting their claims and stating their article was completely unbiased.

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