The Delhi High Court on Tuesday denied bail to Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia in a case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation related to alleged irregularities in the national capital’s now-scrapped liquor policy, reported Live Law.

A single-judge bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma passed the order, stating that the allegations of misconduct against him are “very serious”.

He added, “The excise policy was formed at the instance of the South Group with malafide intention to give undue advantage to them. Such an act points towards the misconduct of the applicant who was admittedly a public servant and was holding a very high position.”

According to the Enforcement Directorate, which is also investigating the case, the “South Group” had paid at least Rs 100 crore in kickbacks to leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party through arrested businessman Vijay Nair.

In return the “South Group secured uninhibited access, attained stakes in established wholesale businesses and multiple retail zones [over and above what was allowed in the policy]”, the Enforcement Directorate had alleged.

On Tuesday, the High Court also noted that Sisodia is an influential person. “...And having held the position of deputy chief minister with 18 portfolios and the witnesses mostly being public servants, there is a possibility of witnesses being influenced cannot be ruled out,” the High Court said.

The former deputy chief minister of Delhi was arrested on February 26 in connection with the state government’s excise policy that came into effect in November 2021.

Under the excise policy, licences of 849 liquor shops were issued to private firms through open bidding. Earlier, four government corporations ran 475 liquor stores and the remaining 389 were private shops. The policy was withdrawn on July 30 after Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena recommended an inquiry into how it had been formulated and implemented.

The Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation have alleged that the excise policy was modified to ensure a 12% profit margin for wholesalers and a nearly 185% profit margin for retailers.

On March 31, Special Judge MK Nagpal of the Rouse Avenue Court had denied bail to Sisodia in the case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, saying he can prima facie be held the “architect of the criminal conspiracy”.

Sisodia had challenged the verdict in the High Court, claiming that the Central Bureau of Investigation had no evidence against him and that he was being singled out.

“They say that I [Sisodia] do not cooperate,” Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan, representing the Aam Aadmi Party leader, told the High Court. “This can never be the ground to deny me the bail. I am not required to cooperate, confess, or answer questions in the way they want. I am required to answer in the way I want, that is the constitutional guarantee.”

Bail plea

In his petition to the High Court, Sisodia had contended that the excise policy was the “collective responsibility” of the Cabinet and it was implemented after being drafted by the excise department, reported The Hindu.

The plea also said that the politician cannot be held criminally liable for the collective decision of the Cabinet, the excise department, finance department, planning department, the law department and the lieutenant governor of Delhi.

“The applicant [Sisodia] is a victim of political witch-hunt, which has led to his arrest by the respondent on account of ulterior motive to drag the reputation of the applicant through the mud,” the bail plea had said.

On April 28, Justice Nagpal had denied bail to him in the Enforcement Directorate case as well. The court had noted that the prosecution was able to show “a genuine and prima facie case for Sisodia’s involvement” in the matter. Following this, Sisodia had moved the High Court.

On April 25, the Central Bureau of Investigation had named Sisodia as an accused person in a chargesheet filed in the case for the first time.