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Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena on Friday recommended a CBI probe into the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 over alleged violations of rules and procedural lapses. The LG has found "substantive indications" of "financial quid pro quo" at the "top political level" wherein the excise minister "took and got executed major decisions in violation of the statutory provisions" and notified the Excise Policy that had "huge financial implications".

Here's an explainer of Delhi's excise policy:

On November 17, 202, the Delhi government exited the liquor business, shutting down its 600 vends to pave way for swanky and privately owned shops.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led the Delhi government then reintroduced a new liquor regime to 'clean up malpractices' and improve the experiences of individuals while buying liquor. It also introduced a new policy to increase government revenue.

Delhi's new excise policy (2021-22), which went into effect in November has the following norms:

1. All liquor vends will be private. The city government will not run any vends.

2. Retail licences issued to private bidders for 849 vends.

3. The 849 vends were divided into 32 zones.

4. The policy allowed stores to be opened in markets, malls, commercial roads/areas, local shopping complexes, and other such places as long as the standard rules and regulations of opening a new shop are followed, particularly Rule 51 of the Delhi Excise Rules.

However, yesterday the strained ties between Delhi LG and the AAP government plummeted after the former recommended a CBI probe into the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22. Lt Governor Saxena's move follows a report submitted by Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar on the matter. The report accuses Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia of providing undue benefits to liquor vend licensees instead of "commission" and the money being used in the recently held Punjab election.

Officials from the Lt Governor’s office said the "Excise department, under direct orders of Sisodia, decided to allow a waiver of 144.36 crore singularly to the liquor cartel, on the tendered license fee, under the excuse of the Covid pandemic".

LG Saxena's decision drew sharp reactions from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Dy CM Sisodia. “I have known Sisodia for 22 years and I have never seen anyone as honest or as much of a deshbhakt as him," Kejriwal said.

“Sisodia made the lives and careers of lakhs of children studying in Delhi… Today, a judge’s son and a rickshaw puller’s son sit together and study at the same table… I have on several occasions, assembly sessions, press conferences, told everyone that the Centre wants to arrest Sisodia. The Centre has adopted a new strategy to frame a person. First, it selects a person, tries to find something against them, and when it fails, it frames a false case and allegations to send the minister to jail," he said.

Kejriwal also accused the Centre of going after AAP ever since it won the Punjab Assembly elections.

But officials in the LG's office claimed that "the probe by CBI will unearth the nefarious game being played at the cost of the people of Delhi and ascertain the quantum of kickbacks received by the AAP government and leaders, as also the use of this money to influence the Punjab elections".

They said that there was a quid pro quo at the top political level, wherein the minister in charge of the Excise Department, Manish Sisodia, took and got executed major decisions/actions in violation of statutory provisions and the notified Excise Policy that had huge financial implications.

The LG office said that Sisodia also extended "undue financial favours" to the liquor licensees much after the tenders had been awarded and thus caused huge losses to the exchequer. Sisodia's role is under the scanner for alleged deliberate and gross procedural lapses which provided undue benefits to the tender process for liquor licensees for the year 2021-22, officials in the Lieutenant-Governor's office said.

On the other hand, AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj yesterday alleged that the CBI probe was recommended by the LG at the behest of the BJP-led Centre to implicate Sisodia in a fake case and keep the Kejriwal-led party at bay in the upcoming Assembly polls.

He also alleged that the Centre has been making efforts to "somehow" implicate all the ministers in the Delhi government in fake cases as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scared of the growing popularity of the AAP and Kejriwal.

Bhardwaj asserted that nothing will come of it and people will eventually understand everything and wonder why Modi is after AAP leaders.

"It is very sad for this country that the LG has recommended a CBI inquiry to implicate Manish Sisodia, the most popular education minister in the country, in a fake case," the AAP leader said.

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