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Harsmirat K Badal urges HM Amit Shah to hold CBI and ED probes into the Punjab liquor scam


Chandigarh: Former union minister and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal today requested union home minister Amit Shah to hold a free and fair CBI and ED probe into the Punjab liquor scam while asserting the same smacked of corruption and had caused a loss of hundreds of crores to the State exchequer.

Mrs Harsimrat Badal today while making this request also forwarded two memorandums the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has submitted to the Punjab Governor as well as the Report of the cabinet subcommittee which virtually repudiated the 2022-23 excise policy. The union home minister had earlier during a discussion in parliament asked Mrs Badal to submit a detailed representation after she raised the issue of alleged corruption in the excise policy.

Writing to the home minister, Mrs Badal said “the SAD feels the objective of the Punjab excise policy was the same as the Delhi one – to hand over the entire wholesale liquor trade to few companies (in this case two) besides doubling their profit margins. The purported aim was to facilitate a quid pro quo under which there are allegations that hundreds of crores were passed back to the AAP government in Punjab and the AAP high command in Delhi”. She said since this was a matter of public importance it was imperative to identify the loot of the Punjab State exchequer and ensure punishment of those guilty of the same.

Giving details from the memorandums submitted by the SAD, Mrs Badal said a SAD delegation headed by party president Sukhbir Singh Badal had approached the Punjab Governor on August 31, 2022 and urged him to order an investigation into the Punjab excise policy. The delegation had highlighted how the Punjab policy was framed by Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, MP Raghav Chadha, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann and the Punjab Excise minister with the aim of giving undue enrichment to favourites of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at the cost of the State exchequer. The SAD had appealed to the Governor to take action under Section 7 and 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act for which he was empowered against all of them.

Mrs Badal said memorandums made the similarities of the Delhi and Punjab excise policies clear. Both make it mandatory that L-1 licensees should not be manufacturers anywhere in India or abroad. She said these terms, including a condition that licensees should have a turnover of at least Rs 30 crore per year and making L-2 liquor vend holders ineligible for allotment of L-1 licensees had effectively ousted the Punjab liquor traders from the liquor business in the State. She informed the home minister that these provisions were also against the Punjab Excise Act, 1914, and Punjab Liquor License Rules, 1956. She also detailed how nearly the entire wholesale liquor trade in Punjab was handed over to two companies headed by Aman Dhall (Brindco) and the Mehra family (Anant Wines).

The Bathinda MP said the SAD had revealed how preliminary meetings to frame the Punjab excise policy were taken by MP Raghav Chadha in Hyatt Chandigarh in a suite on the fifth floor. She said following this Mr Sisodia hosted another meeting at his residence in Delhi on May 30, 2022 at 4 pm which was attended by Raghav Chadha, Vijay Nair, Financial Commissioner (Punjab), company Executives and Excise Officials of Punjab. “The final meeting to finalize all modalities was again hosted by Mr Sisodia at his residence in Delhi on June 6, 2022. All these details can be collaborated by seeking the CCTV footage of Mr Sisodia’s residence as well tower location details of the persons involved”.

Mrs Badal said the manner in which the policy was framed in Delhi had also compromised the official records of the State. “Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and the State excise minister are directly responsible for the same.

The Bathinda MP highlighted how the SAD had revealed the contents of the Report of the cabinet subcommittee on the excise policy. Terming it as a clear case of covering one’s tracks, Mrs Badal said the committee which included Mr Harpal Cheema, Mr Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal and Mr Harjot Singh Bains virtually repudiated the previous excise policy. It noted that the State had suffered a loss in excise revenue with only Rs 28 crore being earned through fixed license fee and non-refundable security even as it claimed this income would go up to Rs 155 crore for the year 2023-24. “It is clear the AAP government realised it could earn five times more without increasing the fee because it knew that the scam being perpetrated by it could be uncovered soon in case of a probe”.

Asserting this was not all, Mrs Badal said the sub-committee noted that there were significant gaps in the 2022-23 policy. It said that the transfer of rebate benefit which was mentioned in the policy was not being given by the manufacturer to retailers. It also observed that most L-1 licensees had fixed minimum cases to be supplied to retailers and were thus misusing their monopolistic position to dictate terms including reducing the number of L-1 licensees from 74 to 7

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