Delhi Excise Policy case: Court sends former Minister Manish Sisodia to judicial custody till March 20

A local court in Delhi on Monday sent former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on February 26 in connection with his alleged involvement in the liquor scam case, to judicial custody till March 20.

Special CBI Judge M.K. Nagpal at the Rouse Avenue Court allowed Sisodia's application seeking to provide his spectacles, Bhagwad Geeta, a diary and a pen inside the prison.

It further permitted the former Delhi Cabinet Minister to do Vipassana in the jail, after he contended that there was a system of Vipassana for prisoners in jail.

The Counsel appearing for CBI contended that the agency did not seek remand of the former Aam Aadmi Party leader at this stage, but may do so in the next 15 days. 

He alleged that Sisodia’s supporters, along with the media, were ‘politicising’ the matter, while the witnesses were terrified.

Representing Sisodia, Senior Advocate Mohit Mathur contended that he was 'appalled' by such an argument. He asked whether they were scared of media.

The Special CBI Judge refused to pass any order against the media, stating that the media could not be stopped from reporting the matter. As long as protests were peaceful, the Court would remain unconcerned, he added.

Earlier on March 4, the court had extended the CBI remand of Sisodia by two days.

The Judge further listed his bail plea for hearing on March 10 at 2 pm and directed CBI to file a reply in the matter by the next date of hearing. 

The former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister had applied for bail on March 3, contending that keeping him in custody would not serve any ‘fruitful purpose,’ since all the recoveries in the case have already been made. 

Sisodia personally addressed the court after his remand was extended and said that CBI was asking him the same questions every day from morning till late in the evening, subjecting him to a sort of ‘mental harassment’. 

He further alleged that the questioning for 8-10 hours daily amounted to third degree torture and claimed that CBI did not have any documentary evidence against him.

The Court noted the CBI’s submissions that some ‘missing documents’ had to be traced and two names have been given in whose presence the agency has to interrogate Sisodia. 

On February 27, the Rouse Avenue Court had sent Sisodia to five-day CBI custody over his alleged involvement in irregularities related to the now-scrapped Delhi Excise Policy.

Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Pankaj Gupta had appeared for CBI before the Rouse Avenue Court. 

He sought custody of Sisodia till March 4, arguing that investigation had revealed that Sisodia verbally directed the Secretary to put a new Cabinet note to bring about the change and variance in the policy. 

Gupta said the Deputy Chief Minister was heading the Group of Ministers constituted by the Cabinet for the Excise Policy. The profit margin was enhanced from five percent to 12 percent. Sisodia could not explain why the changes were made, he added.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had arrested Sisodia in connection with the liquor policy scam on Sunday, after questioning him for eight hours.

CBI said it had arrested Sisodia on the basis of some documents and digital evidence, along with destruction of evidence.

The AAP leader had challenged his arrest by CBI in the Supreme Court, which dismissed his plea on February 28.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha told Sisodia that he had alternative remedies available before the High Court, which he should have pursued, instead of directly invoking the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution.

CBI had alleged that Sisodia and other members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had granted liquor licences to certain traders in exchange for bribes.

It was alleged that the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 was manipulated in such a manner, so as to benefit certain traders and that kickbacks were received in exchange for the same.

Both CBI and ED had registered cases in relation to the alleged scam after Delhi Lieutenant Governor (LG) Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended a CBI probe based on a report by the Delhi Chief Secretary, which alleged that Sisodia had violated statutory provisions and notified a policy that had significant financial implications.