Excise: Inquiry claims officials made 'arbitrary' decisions, Sisodia approved
Delhi's Excise department officials made changes in provisions of excise policy 2021-22 and executed it without the consent of the Council of Ministers, causing "windfall gains" to licensees and losses to the Delhi government, sources said on Sunday.
The inquiry report of the Vigilance Directorate of the Delhi government, based on which LG VK Saxena has approved suspension and major disciplinary action against 11 excise officials, listed various "arbitrary and unilateral" decisions allegedly taken by the department officials and approved by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.
No immediate reaction was available from Delhi government's excise department or Sisodia over the findings of the report.
The findings of the inquiry report on the levy of import pass fee and profit margin in case of foreign liquor, reduction in the number of dry days and illegal extension of Excise Policy show what caused the loss of revenue to the government, sources said.
Sisodia, who had earlier projected that the excuse policy will earn a revenue of Rs 9500 crore, accused former LG Anil Baijal on Saturday of modifying liquor policy overnight due to which liquor stores could not open in non-confirming areas, causing a loss of "thousands of crores of rupees" to the Delhi government.
Officers of the Excise department neither took the approval of the Council of Ministers nor the opinion of the LG before issuing the order on November 8, 2021, for revising the formula of calculation of rates of foreign liquor and removal of levying of import pass fee at the rate of Rs 50 per case on beer, noted the inquiry report.
The decision led to a reduction in the input cost of beer and foreign liquor to the retail licensees.
The finance department had in a note on October 28, 2021, suggested the excise department place a note before the group of ministers for impact on revenue due to this decision, it said.
"The decision of the excise department was later approved by Sisodia, who also holds the excise portfolio," it said.
Also, the report says, the number of dry days was reduced from 21 to three in the excuse policy 2921-22 without taking approval of the council of ministers or the opinion of the LG, the report said.
"The officials did not undertake any effort to levy additional licence fee to compensate for the such increased number of sale days due to substantial reduction in the number of dry days," pointed the report.
The extensions in the licence period up to July 31, 2022 were made by the officials on receiving notes from the Deputy Chief Minister's office for the purpose but without seeking comment from the finance department or approval of the council of ministers, the sources quoted the report as claiming.
The period of the L7Z licenses(zonal licensed) was extended firstly from April 1, 2022, to May 31, 2022, and again from June 1, 2022, to July 31, 20022 by the excise officials without taking approval of the council of ministers and the opinion of LG.
The same was the case in extending the wholesale license period up to July 31, 20022, said the report.
Such extension without any increase in the tendered licence fee was in contravention to the proposal, placed before and approved by the council of ministers on June 23, 2021, that at the end of the year 2021-22, the licence fee may be increased after considering the real time-based actual sale data.
"However, no such exercise was undertaken by the officers of the departments before extending the period of license without any increase in the tendered license fee. Therefore, such extension without any increase in tendered license fee would prima facie lead to undue benefit to such licensees," said the report.
The extensions in the licence period up to July 31, 20022 were made by the officials on receiving notes from the Deputy CM office for the purpose but without seeking comment from the finance department or approval of the council of ministers, it added.
A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry has already been recommended by the LG into the alleged violation of rules and procedural lapses in the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.
The Delhi government has now withdrawn the policy and is preparing to run liquor vends under the old excise regime through its undertakings from September 1.