CBI books Manish Sisodia in case connected to Delhi govt's Feedback Unit
Delhi's jailed former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia has been booked by the CBI in a new case related to alleged misuse of official position and financial impropriety in the government's Feedback Unit (FBU) which was also used for "political snooping", officials said Thursday.
Already arrested by the CBI in the excise policy case and at present in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate, the woes of 51-year-old Sisodia aggravated after the agency registered a fresh case against him and five others on Tuesday for alleged criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, forgery and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, they said.
The agency booked Sisodia, a 1992-batch IRS officer Sukesh Kumar Jain who was then secretary of vigilance, retired CISF DIG Rakesh Kumar Sinha who was working as special advisor to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and joint director in the Feedback Unit, they said.
Besides, former joint deputy director of Intelligence Bureau Pradeep Kumar Punj, who was working as deputy director of the Feedback Unit, retired assistant commandant of CISF Satish Khetrapal who was working as feedback officer, and Gopal Mohan, advisor, anti-corruption, to Kejriwal were also booked in the case, officials said.
The agency has invoked IPC sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 468 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 477A (falsification of accounts) besides provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act against those named in the FIR.
Reacting to the development, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, "PM's plan is to slap several false cases against Manish and keep him in custody for a long period. Sad for the country!" The case relates to FBU set by the Aam Aadmi Party to gather relevant information and actionable feedback regarding the working of various bodies under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government and to do "trap cases" as an ears-to-ground agency to check corruption, the FIR alleged.
The CBI action is an outcome of a preliminary enquiry which had "prima facie disclosed the offences" against the named accused. The preliminary enquiry was conducted by the agency on a reference from the Vigilance Department of the Delhi Government on November 4, 2016.
The preliminary enquiry, first step by the agency to detect prima facie criminality in the allegations, showed irregularities in the appointments made in the unit, financial misappropriation and violation at various levels.
The enquiry report which is now part of the 11-page FIR has alleged that posts for retired employees in the unit were created without concurrence from the Administrative Reforms Department and the lieutenant governor who is the competent authority.
The CBI, in its preliminary enquiry report, has alleged that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal moved the proposal in a Cabinet meeting in 2015, regarding setting up the unit but no agenda note was circulated.
The government created 20 posts for the FBU to be adjusted in 88 posts created in Anti-Corruption Branch on an order from Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. The 88 posts only had tentative approval of Administrative Reforms department and there was no approval from the competent authority that is Lieutenant Governor, they said.
The then Vigilance Secretary Jain "deliberately and willfully avoided" referring the creation of 20 posts for FBU to Administrative Reforms Department for concurrence, the FIR alleged.
The posts were created in the FBU without any "recruitment rules" and 17 of them were to be filled by retired officials contract basis for which funds of Rs 20.59 lakh were sought from Finance Department under the head "Other Charges" which is "an act of illegal diversion".
"These appointments were non-est, null and void since inception, as they were not only in violation of rules, guidelines and constitutional provisions," the FIR alleged.
The unit had started functioning from February 2016 for which Rs 1 crore was provisioned from Secret Service (SS) Funds for the year 2016-17. Rs 10 lakh was disbursed from the SSF in two tranches on June 7 and June 13 of which Rs 5.5 lakh were spent by the FBU, it alleged.
The agency has alleged that fabricated vouchers were used for spending the funds, amount issued for conducting trap of a private school principal even when it was not covered under the Prevention of Corruption Act among others.
When the issue of improper use of SS funds was brought before Joint Director, FBU RK Sinha by Vigilance Department, he replied that the Vigilance Directorate had "nothing to do with the operations of FBU and there was no reason to provide report of utilisation of funds" to it, the FIR alleged.
Sinha told Deputy Secretary Vigilance K S Meena that FBU was dealing with confidential matters with the working of Delhi Government for which the report was directly sent to Chief Minister Arvind Kerjriwal, it alleged.
Prima facie, the agency noted, there was a deliberate violation of rules, guidelines and circulars by "delinquent public servants".
"The nature of violations committed is inherently dishonest and as such materials disclose abuse of official position with dishonest intention by concerned public servants Manish Sisodia, and Sukesh Kumar Jain, the then Secretary (Vigilance)," the report alleged.
It alleged that the Feedback Unit was misused by the public servants concerned for a purpose other than the one for which it was manifestly created.
The unit meant for being the city government's ears-to-ground agency to detect corruption allegedly did political snooping and caused a loss of Rs 36 lakh to the exchequer, the FIR has alleged.
According to the CBI, 60 per cent of the reports generated by the FBU pertained to vigilance and corruption matters, while "political intelligence" and other issues accounted for around 40 per cent.
"The scrutiny of such reports during the period from February 2016 to the early part of September 2016 shows that a substantial number of reports submitted by FBU officials related not to actionable feedback or information on corruption in any department, institute, entity etc. under GNCTD but related to political activities of persons, political entities and political issues touching political interest of Aam Aadmi Party, BJP, which was beyond the scope and ambit of functions of FBU," the CBI has alleged.
The CBI said the Feedback Unit was functioning for some "hidden purpose" which was not in the interest of the GNCTD but "private interest of the AAP and Manish Sisodia", who played an active role in the creation of the unit, flouting the established rules of GNCTD and MHA in connivance with Jain.
"Use of the Feedback Unit to this extent for the purpose of gathering political intelligence for AAP or for convenor Arvind Kejriwal can reasonably be interpreted to mean and constitute the obtaining of valuable thing or pecuniary advantage, as gathering this information otherwise would necessarily have entailed spending money," the CBI alleged.
It was also revealed that no formal action was taken against any public servant or department based on the Feedback Unit reports, the CBI alleged.
"The nature of violations committed is inherently dishonest and as such materials disclose abuse of official position with dishonest intention by concerned public servants Manish Sisodia, Dy. CM and Sukesh Kumar Jain, the then Secretary (Vigilance)," the report alleged.