AAP Will Be Made Accused In Liquor Policy Case, Probe Agency Tells Court

This will be the first time in the history of India that a political party will be named an accused in a case.

New Delhi:

The Aam Aadmi Party will be made an accused in the alleged liquor policy scam, which has seen three of its key leaders - including party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal - land behind bars, the Enforcement Directorate has informed the Delhi High Court. This will be the first time a political party will be made an accused in a case. 

The probe agency has told the court, which was hearing the bail plea of AAP leader and former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, that a supplementary chargesheet will be filed in the case and the party will be named in it.

The Enforcement Directorate is probing the money laundering angle of the alleged scam and the move comes just days after the Supreme Court granted Mr Kejriwal interim bail to campaign in the Lok Sabha elections. 

In October last year, the question of making the AAP an accused was raised by the Supreme Court, which had asked why the political party was not being named if it had - as per the ED'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 query was "not to implicate any political party" and was "just a legal question". 

Officials have been saying that the probe agency is treating the political party as a company and, by that logic, Arvind Kejriwal would be the CEO. The classification would help the ED as the definition of a company is broad under the PMLA. 

'AAP Should Accept Culpability' 

Reacting to the ED's move, the BJP has said the alleged kickbacks were used by the AAP in its campaign for the 2022 Goa elections.

"The Aam Aadmi Party has been the biggest scam in the history of Indian politics and the alleged kickbacks were used for the elections in Goa. Almost all of their key leaders are accused (in the case)... It is about time the AAP accepts its culpability. Manish Sisodia has not been given bail for 15 months. There is nothing surprising in the ED's decision to make the entire party an accused," said BJP Spokesperson Tuhin Sinha.

On allegations of the central agencies being misused by the Centre, Mr Sinha said the AAP has good lawyers and can "fight it out legally". 

The Case 

Under the excise policy, introduced in November 2021, the Delhi government withdrew from 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 were routed to public servants. The Enforcement Directorate has alleged laundering of the kickbacks.