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High Court Halts Delhi CM Kejriwal’s Bail Just Before Release



Arvind Khejriwal

Hours before his scheduled release from Tihar Jail, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal faced a major setback as the Delhi High Court paused his bail order in a corruption case related to the Delhi Liquor Policy. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) challenged Mr. Kejriwal’s bail through a new petition, leading to this development.

The ED requested an urgent hearing of its petition, challenging the trial court’s bail order, before a bench of Justices Sudhir Kumar Jain and Ravinder Dudeja. The high court ruled that the trial court’s order would remain on hold until the petition was heard.

Mr. Kejriwal had secured bail on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh with certain conditions, offering relief after his arrest on March 21. Previously, the Supreme Court had granted him interim bail to campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, after which he returned to jail on June 2.

Understanding Delhi’s Liquor Policy and the Ongoing Controversy

In November 2021, Delhi implemented a new liquor policy proposed a year earlier. This policy aimed to revamp the city’s liquor market by addressing issues like the liquor mafia and black marketing, increasing government revenue, and enhancing consumer experiences.

The policy divided Delhi into 32 zones, each with 27 liquor stores, to ensure fair distribution of outlets. It marked the government’s withdrawal from direct liquor sales, leaving operations to private retailers. Each municipal ward was allocated 2-3 liquor stores. License holders were allowed to offer discounts and set their own prices, which fostered competition and attracted customers.

The policy boosted government revenue by 27%, totaling around Rs 8,900 crore. However, this success was soon marred by controversy.

CBI’s Involvement

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) named 15 individuals in an FIR related to the policy, including Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Allegations included L-1 license holders issuing credit notes to retailers to illicitly benefit public officials and falsifying account records.

The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Delhi Police got involved following proposed changes in May 2022, such as extended store hours and home delivery of liquor. Delhi’s Chief Secretary flagged these proposals for “procedural lapses” and irregularities. A report was submitted to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena, highlighting illegalities and monopolistic practices in the liquor trade.

Chief Secretary’s Allegations Against Sisodia

The Chief Secretary’s report accused Sisodia of unauthorized changes to the policy, including a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore in license fees without necessary approvals. It also alleged that Sisodia gave undue benefits to liquor licensees through rate revisions and fee removals, reducing state revenue.

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