AAP will be made accused in liquor policy case, investigating agency tells court

New Delhi:

The Aam Aadmi Party will be made an accused in the alleged liquor policy scam that has landed three of its key leaders, including party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, behind bars, the Enforcement Directorate has informed the Delhi High Court. This will be the first time that a political party will be made an accused in a case.

The investigating agency has told the court, which was hearing the bail plea of ​​AAP leader and former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, that a supplementary charge sheet will be filed in the case and the party will be named in it.

The Enforcement Directorate is probing the money laundering aspect of the alleged scam and the move comes just days after the Supreme Court granted interim bail to Mr Kejriwal to campaign in the Lok Sabha elections.

In October last year, the question of making AAP an accused was raised by the Supreme Court, which asked why it was not being named if the political party had benefited from alleged bribery in the liquor police, as per ED claims. . Case.

“As far as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is concerned, your entire case is that the benefit went to a political party. That political party has still not been made an accused or a party. How do you answer this? Political The party is the beneficiary according to you,” a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SV Bhatti had said.

The next day, the court had clarified that its question was “not meant to implicate any political party” and was “just a legal question”.

Officials are saying that the investigating agency is treating the political party like a company and according to this logic, Arvind Kejriwal will be the CEO. The classification will help the ED as the definition of company under PMLA is broad.

‘You must plead guilty’

Reacting to the ED move, the BJP has said that the alleged bribes were used by AAP in its campaign for the 2022 Goa elections.

“Aam Aadmi Party has been the biggest scam in the history of Indian politics and alleged bribes were used for elections in Goa. Almost all their prominent leaders are accused (in the case)… Now it is time that you BJP Spokesman Tuhin Sinha said, “I plead guilty. Manish Sisodia has not been granted bail for 15 months. There is nothing surprising in the ED’s decision to make the entire party an accused.”

On allegations of misuse of central agencies by the Centre, Mr Sinha said AAP had good lawyers and could “fight it legally”.

Case

Under the excise policy introduced in November 2021, the Delhi government pulled out of retail sale of liquor and allowed private licensees to run stores. In July 2022, Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar highlighted gross violations in the policy and accused it of giving “undue benefits” to liquor licensees. The policy was abolished in September that year.

The CBI has alleged that liquor companies were involved in formulating the excise duty policy, which would have given them a profit of 12%. It said a liquor lobby called “South Group” had paid a bribe of Rs 100 crore to AAP, a part of which was given to public servants. The Enforcement Directorate has alleged bribery embezzlement.

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