Delhi High Court imposes ₹1 lakh costs on lawyer who sought details of CBI and ED officers harassing liquor vendors

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The Delhi High Court recently imposed costs of ₹1 lakh on a lawyer who filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking identification of officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) who allegedly harassed Delhi’s liquor vendors [Narinder Khanna v Govt of Delhi and Ors].

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad held that the PIL is nothing but a sheer abuse of process of law and therefore dismissed it at the admission stage.

The Court termed the allegations as being “wild” and noted that the petition did not name a single officer of the CBI, or of the ED who harassed a single liquor vendor.

“…nor has he given details of any kind of such harassment and based upon the so-called press releases/statements made in the press, he wants a roving inquiry to be done by this Court. The present petition is nothing but a sheer abuse of the process of law and the petitioner wants a roving inquiry to be done by this Court based upon vague and absurd allegations,” the Court added.

The costs are to be paid to the Army War Widows Fund within a period of 30 days.

“It is made clear that if the amount is not paid within 30 days from today, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, New Delhi District will recover the amount as arrears of land revenue and shall transfer the same to the Army War Widows Fund with intimation to the Registrar General of this Court. The Registrar General shall monitor the recovery as ordered by this Court. The Petitioner shall appear before the Registrar General for reporting compliance on 18.10.2022,” the Court ordered.

Advocate Narinder Khanna had approached the High Court stating that he had heard a statement on news channel “India TV” by Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia that Central agencies are harassing private liquor vendors who were forced to close their shops.

According to the plea, Sisodia had also confirmed that on closure of the private liquor shops, heavy losses were caused to the State exchequer, resulting in the loss of livelihood to 176 private liquor vendors. As a consequence, the general public was deprived of the opportunity to purchase liquor at discounted price, Khanna had contended.

Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been trading allegations in relation to Delhi’s new liquor policy.

While the BJP has alleged corruption in the award of tenders to the liquor vendors by the AAP government, AAP has said that BJP is using Central agencies to destabilise its government.

The CBI has also searched Sisodia’s house and other premises.

Advocate Narinder Khanna appeared in person.

The Delhi government was represented through its standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi and Advocates Arun Panwar, Siddharth Krishna Dwivedi, Pradeep and Mahak Rankawat.

Advocates Rahul Raj and Anil Dutt appeared for the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).

The Lieutenant Governor was represented through Advocates Arkaj Kumar and Padmesh Mishra.

Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Suman Chauhan and Advocates Samiksha Mittal and Anubha Bhardwaj appeared for CBI.

Advocates Anurag Ahluwalia and Danish Faraz Khan appeared for the ED.

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