In A First, AAP Named As Accused By Probe Agency In Delhi Liquor Policy Case

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is out on interim bail in the case, has also been named in the chargesheet.

New Delhi:

Opening a new chapter in the country's jurisprudence, the Enforcement Directorate has, for the first time, named a political party as an accused in a case. 

In a supplementary chargesheet filed in the Rouse Avenue court in the alleged liquor policy scam on Friday, the Enforcement Directorate has named the Aam Aadmi Party - a national political party - and its national convenor, Arvind Kejriwal, who is out on interim bail in the case. The agency is probing the money laundering angle of the alleged scam. 

The agency is probing the money laundering angle of the alleged scam and this is the eighth chargesheet it has filed in the case, but the first in which the Delhi chief minister has been named. Mr Kejriwal was arrested on March 21, becoming the third senior AAP leader to be taken into custody in the alleged scam, after his former deputy Manish Sisodia and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh. 

Sources said the decision to name the AAP as an accused can have major repercussions for the party. The Enforcement Directorate, they said, now has the option of writing to the Election Commission of India and requesting them to begin the process of derecognising the Aam Aadmi Party. It can also attach the party's assets, including its headquarters in Delhi. 

The development comes at a time when the AAP finds itself embroiled in a controversy surrounding its Rajya Sabha MP Swati Maliwal, who has alleged that she was slapped and kicked by Mr Kejriwal's aide Bibhav Kumar at the chief minister's residence on Monday, when she was waiting to meet the AAP chief.

The allegations have kicked up a political storm and the AAP has faced attacks from various quarters, including from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. An alleged video from the day has also led to Ms Maliwal and the AAP trading charges. Earlier on Friday, a Delhi Police team, accompanied by forensic specialists, had visited Mr Kejriwal's residence as part of its investigation into Ms Maliwal's complaint. 

Supreme Court's Poser

In October last year, the question of making the AAP an accused was raised by the Supreme Court, which had asked why the party was not being named if it had, as per the Enforcement Directorate's claims, benefited from the alleged kickbacks in the liquor policy case. 

"As far as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is concerned, your whole case is that the benefits went to a political party. That political party is still not made an accused or Impleaded. How do you answer that? The political party is the beneficiary according to you," a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and SV Bhatti had said.

The next day, the court had clarified that its poser was "not to implicate any political party" and was "just a legal question".

Recently, while dismissing a challenge to Mr Kejriwal's arrest, a Delhi High Court bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma had held that a political party can be brought within the purview of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

"The definition of 'political party' as per Section 2(f) of the Representation Of The People Act is that a political party means an 'association or body of individuals'. As per Explanation 1 of Section 70 of PMLA, a 'company' also means an 'association of individuals," she had held.

Liquor Policy Case 

Under the excise policy, introduced in November 2021, the Delhi government withdrew from the retail sale of liquor and allowed private licensees to run stores. In July 2022, Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar flagged gross violations in the policy and alleged "undue benefits" to liquor licensees. The policy was scrapped in September that year.

The CBI has alleged that liquor companies were involved in framing the excise policy, which would have earned them a 12% profit. It said a liquor lobby dubbed the "South Group" had paid kickbacks to the tune of Rs 100 crore to the AAP, part of which was routed to public servants. The Enforcement Directorate has alleged laundering of the kickbacks.