The Supreme Court has clarified that a remark made Wednesday – to the Enforcement Directorate about making the AAP an ‘accused’ in the Delhi liquor policy case – was “not to implicate any political party”. “…it was just a legal question” the court said it had raised with the agency as it heard a bail plea by ex-Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who was arrested in this case in February.
The court had asked the Enforcement Directorate why – if its argument is that the Aam Aadmi Party was paid ₹ 100 crore in alleged kickbacks in the liquor policy scam – the “political party is still not made an accused or impleaded (in this case)”? “How do you answer that?” the court had asked.
The agency is expected to submit a detailed reply later today but Additional Solicitor General SV Raju has told the court, “Wherever there is evidence, we will book them (and) hold them accountable.”
“As far as the (money-laundering) charges are concerned, your whole case is that the benefits went to a political party. The party is the beneficiary, according to you… (but) that party is still not made an accused,” a bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice SV Bhatti said yesterday.
Sources have told NDTV the Enforcement Directorate has a money trail leading to the AAP – a cache of evidence, the agency believes, proves the cash was used to fund election campaigns. The agency is exploring legal opinions on making the AAP an accused.
The court had also raised a second “legal question” on Wednesday – if a cabinet note (specifically, Delhi government notes on the formation of the liquor policy) can be examined by a court of law.
“I believe there are specific Constitution bench judgments barring us from examining cabinet notes. I do not know if it applies to Delhi… because it is a Union Territory. (It is) like the issue of how we cannot get into what is said in Parliament…”
Mr Sisodia, then also the Delhi government’s excise commissioner, is the prime accused in the liquor policy scam; investigating agencies have referred to him as the “kingpin” and “mastermind”.
The case itself pertains to the now-scrapped 2021 liquor policy, under which the ruling AAP withdrew from liquor sales and allowed private individuals to run stores.
The Delhi government reported a 27 per cent increase in income from the policy and generated ₹ 8,900 crore in revenue.
Trouble erupted after reports Mr Sisodia had bent, if not violated, rules to award liquor licenses.
Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena then ordered a CBI inquiry that then snowballed into an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate and the arrests of the senior AAP leader and others.
The Enforcement Directorate widened the scope of the probe and implicated K Kavitha, daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (another fierce critic of the BJP).
The agency has claimed the policy lost the Delhi government ₹ 2,800 crore.
Apart from Mr Sisodia, the Enforcement Directorate has also arrested AAP MP Sanjay Singh, whom they have accused of setting up meetings between the ex-Deputy Chief Minister and Dinesh Arora.
Mr Arora is a businessman who was an accused till he turned approver and got bail.
In April the CBI questioned Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for nine hours.
Mr Kejriwal has denied all allegations and responded strongly after Mr Singh’s arrest yesterday, reminding India’s voters – with a weather eye on next year’s general election – that nothing illegal had been found despite elaborate investigations.