Delhi LG Saxena suspends 11 excise officials for ‘lapses’ in city liquor policy | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

Delhi LG Saxena suspends 11 excise officials for ‘lapses’ in city liquor policy

Aug 07, 2022 01:37 AM IST

Delhi lieutenant governor VK Saxena on Saturday approved the suspension against 11 officers of the Delhi excise department for “serious lapses” in the implementation of the city’s 2021-22 excise policy, said officials aware of the matter.

Delhi lieutenant governor VK Saxena on Saturday approved the suspension against 11 officers of the Delhi excise department for “serious lapses” in the implementation of the city’s 2021-22 excise policy, said officials aware of the matter.

Delhi LG Vinai Kumar Saxena.
Delhi LG Vinai Kumar Saxena.

The 11 include IAS officer Arava Gopi Krishna, who was the city’s excise commissioner at the time, and incumbent deputy commissioner Anand Tiwari.

“The LG has taken this decision in view of serious lapses on part of the officers concerned, in the implementation of the excise policy, including inter-alia irregularities in finalising the tender and extending post tender benefits to select vendors, as established by the directorate of vigilance (DoV) in its report after inquiry. Substantiated proofs to this effect were provided to the DoV by the finance and the excise departments, both under Manish Sisodia,” said a senior official in the LG’s office on Saturday.

“Therefore, the LG has approved suspension and initiation of major disciplinary proceedings against 11 officers of the excise department, including the then excise commissioner and the current excise deputy commissioner Tiwari. He has also ordered the suspension and major disciplinary proceedings against three other ad-hoc DANICS officers, then assistant commissioners and six other officials of the excise department,” the official added.

Delhi government officials did not respond to requests seeking comment on the suspensions.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders meanwhile hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government, and accused it of trying to undercut an investigation into alleged last-minute changes in the excise policy by the state’s previous LG Anil Baijal.

Minutes before suspensions were announced, Sisodia acknowledged that the AAP government in the national capital incurred losses worth “thousands of crores of rupees” under the new excise policy 2021-22, but blamed it on the previous LG, alleging that he “made a U-turn at the last moment” before implementing the new regime from November 17 last year.

Also Read | Delhi excise policy row: Manish Sisodia blames L-G for ‘last-minute U-turn’

Krishna, an IAS officer from the 2012 batch of the AGMUT (Arunachal, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territories) cadre, was relieved from the Delhi government on July 12, 2022, and is currently posted in Diu.

Tiwari is a 2003-batch DANICS (Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service) officer and serves as one of the deputy commissioners of the excise department.

The nine others suspended are assistant commissioners Pankaj Bhatnagar, Narinder Singh and Neeraj Gupta, section officers Kuljeet Singh, Subhash Ranjan and Suman and dealing hands Satya Brat Bhargav, Sachin Solanki and Gaurav Mann.

Last month, Saxena recommended a CBI probe into the city’s 2021-22 excise policy, alleging irregularities in the regime.

Senior officials in the vigilance directorate, which conducted a preliminary investigation said the excise department, “indulged in cartelisation”, awarded tenders to blacklisted companies and illegally allowed manufacturers to get retail licenses by illegally amending the policy.

HT reviewed portions of the directorate’s report, which said: “As far as grant of licenses to shell companies or benami transactions are concerned, it is observed that clause 2.3 of the tender document prohibited the manufacturers or wholesalers to participate in the bidding for Zonal (L72) licence and also that the retail license holder should not have any manufacturing facilities/ distilleries/ breweries/ wineries anywhere in the country or abroad either directly or through any sister concerns related entities. For this purpose, sister concerns/ related entities were defined as the entities which have common proprietorships or partners or directors, and majority ownership (51% or more) of the proprietorship or partnership or company should not lie with the same person in all the entities. The entities should not have a holding-subsidiary relationship or should not be subsidiaries of the same holding company as defined in the Companies Act, 2013.”

“In this regard, it is observed from the data of net-worth placed by the officials of Excise Department at page 441/c in file for Excise Policy 2022-23 that Net-worth of Magunta Agro Farms Pvt Ltd. is mentioned as 13.8 crore for Zone No. 4 and as 13.85 crore for Zone No. 23, despite the fact that licence for both the zones was given pursuant to the same tender notice issued on 28.06.2021, which is not possible as single entity cannot have different Net-worth on same cut-off date. This prima-facie shows that the officials of the Excise Department failed to examine the net-worth of the bidders properly at the time of examination of the bids.”

“It is further observed from the minutes of the meeting of the Tender Evaluation Committee (TEC) held on 04.08.2021 that there were serious allegations regarding proxy ownership. Violation of clause 23 of the tender related to common Directors between the bidding firms and manufacturers of liquor elsewhere in the country and non-inclusion of business in liquor sale in Memorandum of Association of the bidding firms, against the bidders.”

The AAP, meanwhile, lashed out at the BJP for its “dirty politics” over the excise policy.

“Why is the BJP jumping into defence when we’ve sought an investigation against the LG? Was BJP behind this huge scam? BJP had a sudden change of heart when it came to light that the LG is behind the corruption; now BJP is saying there shouldn’t be any investigation into the excise policy. Guidelines issued by the Central Vigilance Commission of India clearly state that any such modification of terms and condition after tender are ‘a befitting subject for vigilance enquiry’. LG got to know which businessperson was running liquor shops in which area so he immediately changed terms of the tender. The speed with which the BJP jumped into the LG’s defence raises questions,” said AAP senior leader and MLA Atishi.

AAP chief spokesperson and MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj said Delhi government’s exchequer faced a 40% loss because the LG prohibited liquor shops from being opened in 40% of the area. “This led to bumper sales for a few shops besides the mafia. CBI comes under the BJP’s central government itself. Why, despite this, is BJP running away from an investigation. The accusations have been made against the LG and the defence is being presented by BJP leaders; did BJP leaders too benefit out of the overnight modification?”

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