Former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia "planted" manufactured public opinions in support of the excise policy by getting favourable views from interns of Delhi Minority Commission to make grounds for the now scrapped policy, the CBI has alleged in its supplementary charge sheet.
The Delhi government had constituted an expert committee on overhauling the excise policy, which had given its recommendations. Sisodia was unhappy with the recommendations, so he asked the then excise commissioner Rahul Singh to seek public opinion by placing the Dhawan Committee report on web site, the agency alleged in the charge sheet filed before the Special CBI court on April 25.
In the supplementary charge sheet filed in the case against Sisodia and other accused, the central agency said he "dishonestly and fraudulently" wanted to prepare grounds through "fabricated public opinions" for incorporating provisions in the policy as per his "pre-conceived" ideas.
The charge sheet said Sisodia "got fabricated certain emails through Zakir Khan, chairperson of Delhi Minorities Commission which were sent by interns of Delhi Minorities Commission on the dedicated email ID of the excise department...with a copy to...accused Manish Sisodia," the charge sheet accessed by the PTI alleged.
The suggestions given in the emails -- allotment of retail liquor licence through the auction of zones, reduction of excise and VAT as well as enhancement of licence fee and increase in the number of liquor vends, were handed over to Khan by Sisodia "in a handwritten note" with the directions to get multiple emails on "said lines" on the email id given for seeking public opinion, it alleged.
"This proves that the accused Manish Sisodia was working with pre-conceived ideas for the formulation of the Excise Policy and was planting manufactured public opinion in support of the same," it alleged.
The agency has relied heavily on the testimony of government officials, including the FIR named accused former excise commissioner Arva Gopi Krishna, against whom the CBI could not find any incriminating evidence of criminal misconduct and quoted him as a witness only.
The agency said that his statements recorded before the Magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC are "relevant" to prove the accusations against Sisodia and other accused. The CBI has alleged that Sisodia obtained copies of the fabricated emails, sent by the interns of Delhi Minorities Commission from the Excise Department through his Secretary C Arvind.
He directed Excise Commissioner Rahul Singh that many of the opinions received on his emails have not been included in the summary prepared by the department and directed him to include them as well. "In this manner, Manish Sisodia dishonestly and fraudulently wanted to prepare grounds through these fabricated public opinions for creating ground for incorporating provisions in the Excise Policy as per his pre-conceived ideas," the charge sheet alleged.
Sisodia then directed Singh to prepare a draft cabinet note on the lines of the summary to be placed before the Council of Ministers Meeting held on January 28, 2021. According to the charge sheet, Sisodia provided a draft of the cabinet note to Singh through secretary on WhatsApp.
In the draft note prepared on the directions of Sisodia, the excise department also incorporated legal opinions by three legal stalwarts -- former CJIs Ranjan Gogoi and KG Balakrishnan and former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi -- who suggested status quo. These opinions were obtained by Delhi ALCOBEV Retailers Association and were submitted as part of public opinion.
The cabinet note did not come for consideration at the council meeting on January 28, 2021, but Sisodia expressed his anger at Singh for incorporating the view of legal experts. The said file remains "untraceable", the CBI has alleged, adding Sisodia "destroyed/caused disappearance" of the file of the note because it was not suiting their "ulterior" designs.
The agency used digital forensic evidence retrieved from the phones of government officials involved in the process. Sisodia "with mala fide intention suppressed the existence/submission" in the meeting of the Cabinet on January 28, 2021, the CBI alleged. Later, Sisodia got prepared a fresh note withholding the legal opinions and placed it before the Cabinet on February 5, 2021, in which it was decided to form a Group of Ministers under him to formulate the excise policy.
The policy came into being in November 2021 but was later scrapped following allegations of corruption. It is alleged that the policy favoured certain dealers who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge strongly refuted by the AAP.
"It was further alleged that irregularities were committed, including modifications in Excise Policy, extending undue favours to the licensees, waiver/reduction in licence fee, the extension of L-1 license without approval etc. "It was also alleged that illegal gains on the count of these acts were diverted to concerned public servants by private parties by making false entries in their books of accounts," a CBI spokesperson had said after FIR filed on August 17, 2022.