Two senior bureaucrats were suspended on Monday by the Union Home Ministry amid a widening probe and an all-out BJP vs AAP political battle over Delhi’s now-overturned liquor sales policy that has also ensnared Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.
The then Excise Commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna and Deputy Commissioner Anand Tiwari were suspended days after Delhi Lt Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena, the BJP-led government’s representative in Delhi, cleared the move.
Within months of taking over the position, he had ordered disciplinary proceedings for “serious lapses” against 11 officers in connection with the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22.
Amid an intensifying face-off between the Lieutenant Governor’s office and the Delhi government over the liquor sales policy, Mr Saxena had approved the suspension of 11 officers of the Excise department, including Mr Krishna and Mr Tiwari on August 6.
An Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer, Mr Krishna was the Excise Commissioner when the policy was formulated and implemented last year. Mr Tiwari, a Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS) officer, was serving as the Deputy Commissioner under Manish Sisodia.
The others suspended by the Delhi Lt Governor were Assistant Commissioners Pankaj Bhatnagar, Narinder Singh, Neeraj Gupta, Section Officers Kuljeet Singh, Subhash Ranjan and Suman and Dealing Hands Satya Brat Bhargav, Sachin Solanki and Gaurav Mann.
Last month, the Delhi Lt Governor had also recommended a CBI probe into the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, putting Mr Sisodia, in charge of the excise department, directly in the line of fire and prompting raids by the central agency soon after.
The move followed a report submitted by Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar on the matter, which alleged corruption and violation of transaction of business rules.
The report alleged that undue benefits were provided to liquor vend licensees for “kickbacks” and “commissions”.
The new excise policy had been introduced by the Delhi government to increase government revenue, improve the consumer experience, reduce corruption and equitably redistribute liquor shops. Under the new policy, implemented in November last year, only private liquor shops could run in the capital.