The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to a senior executive of Pernod Ricard India, a subsidiary of one of the world's largest alcoholic beverages company, in connection with the Delhi liquor policy scam.
In granting Benoy Babu, the Regional General Manager, bail, the court observed, "You can't keep people behind bars, before a trial, for long (periods of time). This is not proper..."
"... We still don't know how this will go. There seems to be contradiction between what the Central Bureau of Investigation is alleging and what the ED is alleging," Justice Sanjiv Khanna observed.
The bench, which also included Justice SVN Bhatt, directed bail for Mr Babu after noting he had already been in prison for 13 months and based on factual circumstances raised in his application.
Several people have been arrested in this case, which has triggered a massive political row between the ruling BJP and the opposition, particularly the Aam Aadmi Party that is in power in Delhi. Two senior AAP members, including ex-Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, were also arrested.
Mr Sisodia has been in jail since February and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh since October.
On October 30 the Supreme Court refused Manish Sisodia bail. It said the charges against him - of facilitating "windfall gains" of Rs 338 crore to wholesale liquor dealers is "tentatively" backed by evidence. Mr Sisodia last week moved the court seeking a review of its order.
The court referred to the CBI's charge sheet, which said the excess amount of seven per cent commission earned by wholesale distributors, amounting to Rs 338 crore, constituted an offence as defined under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act; this relates to bribing a public servant.
The bench said, as per the complaint, the Rs 338 crore constituted the proceeds of crime.
READ | Manish Sisodia Approaches Supreme Court Over Denial Of Bail
Mr Sisodia was first arrested by the CBI on February 26. He was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate two weeks later, on March 9, after a prolonged interrogation inside Delhi's Tihar Jail.
The Delhi government implemented the revised liquor excise policy on November 17, 2021, but it was scrapped less than a year later amid widespread allegations of corruption. Investigating agencies have claimed wholesalers' profit margins were arbitrarily increased from five to 12 per cent.
READ | NDTV Explains Delhi Liquor Policy Case Linked To Arvind Kejriwal's Party
They have also alleged that the new policy resulted in cartelisation and those ineligible for liquor licences were favoured for monetary benefits. However, the Delhi government and Manish Sisodia have denied any wrongdoing and said the new policy would have led to an increase in revenue.
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