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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday raided the home of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and 20 other locations in connection with the "Delhi Excise Policy scam". The latest raid has plunged the relations between the Delhi-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Centre-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said there is no need to panic and the agency had been “asked from above" to harass them.

However, the CBI on Friday listed 15 accused, including Sisodia in its FIR on the alleged excise scam. A liquor trader paid 1 crore to a company managed by an associate of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, the CBI has claimed in its FIR.

In addition to Sisodia, who also holds the excise portfolio, the CBI has named as accused then excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, then deputy excise commissioner Anand Kumar Tiwari, assistant excise commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar, nine businessmen and two companies.

What was Delhi Excise Policy 2021?

The Excise Policy 2021-22, formulated on the basis of an expert committee report, was implemented on November 17 last year and retail licences were issued under it to private bidders for 849 vends across the city, divided into 32 zones.

Delhi Excise Policy scam: Why CBI conducted the raid?

The CBI registered an FIR to investigate alleged irregularities in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy 2021. Therefore, this year, the Delhi government scrapped that policy as the incumbent Governor of Delhi accused Sisodia of alleged irregularities in the policy.

The Delhi Excise Policy came under the scanner after Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena last month recommended a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.

He also suspended 11 excise officials in the matter. Sisodia too demanded a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in the policy.

The CBI inquiry was recommended based on the Delhi chief secretary's report filed in July showing prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR)-1993, Delhi Excise Act-2009 and Delhi Excise Rules-2010, officials said.

What next?

After the CBI investigation, reports have surfaced that now the Enforcement Directorate (ED) may also initiate a money laundering investigation over the framing and execution of the AAP government's excise policy.

The ED, during its probe, will analyse if individuals and companies who were involved in the policy making and related entities generated any "proceeds of crime under the definition of PMLA" and if there was any possible creation of illegal or benami assets, news agency PTI said.

According to officials, the chief secretary's report had shown prima facie violations, including "deliberate and gross procedural lapses", to provide post-tender "undue benefits to liquor licensees" through the policy.

It is alleged that undue financial favours were extended to liquor licensees after the tenders were awarded, causing loss to the exchequer.

The excise department gave a waiver of 144.36 crore to the licensees on the tendered licence fee on the excuse of Covid-19, sources claimed.

They added it also refunded the earnest money of 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.

"It was in gross violation of rule 48(11)(b) of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010, which stipulates that the successful bidder must complete all formalities for the grant of the licence, failing which all deposits made by him shall stand forfeited to the government," the agency added, citing a source.

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