Special Correspondent

CHICKBALLAPUR: Investigations into the Sidlaghatta liquor tragedy, which claimed 12 lives, have indicated that spurious liquor that was seized by the excise officials during the 2008 Assembly elections was distributed to the voters during the gram panchayat elections held on May 8.

Official sources said that huge quantity of the illicit and spurious liquor was seized during the Assembly elections. The seized liquor was in the custody of the local Excise officials. As the officials were not given permission by the higher-ups, the seized liquor was not destroyed in accordance with the norms.

Excise official Raghu, who was recently trapped by the Lokayukta police, was reportedly the custodian of the seized liquor. However, after Mr. Raghu's suspension, the other staff of the Excise Department had allegedly sold the spurious liquor to the candidates who contested the gram panchayat elections, the sources said. Besides, it was said that the seized liquor was freely given to the public by the Excise officials. Those who had consumed this liquor died, the sources said.

Meanwhile, Excise Minister M.P. Renukacharya is visiting Sidlaghatta on Thursday to take stock of the situation and ascertain the cause for the tragedy. Two excise officials have already been suspended on the charge of dereliction of duty in connection with the liquor tragedy.