About an hour after the Supreme Court refused to intervene in a petition filed on Tuesday by Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi and senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia, challenging his arrest in the Delhi excise policy case, the party announced that Mr. Sisodia and Satyendar Jain have resigned as Delhi Cabinet Ministers.
Mr. Jain, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in May last year in an alleged money laundering case, is currently lodged in Tihar Jail. Till Tuesday, Mr. Jain continued as a Minister without portfolio and all his departments were being handled by Mr. Sisodia.
Mr. Sisodia, who is number 2 in the party and the government, was in-charge of 18 departments, including education, health, and finance.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accepted their resignations and forwarded them to the Lieutenant Governor, said a Delhi government spokesperson.
Delhi can have a maximum of seven Ministers, including the Chief Minister, as per Article 239AA of the Constitution.
With Tuesday’s resignations, there are only five Ministers left and Mr. Kejriwal currently does not hold any portfolio.
New Ministers soon
Later in the day, AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj, addressing a press conference, announced that two new Ministers would soon be inducted in the Cabinet.
“Resignations were given so that development works of Delhiites won’t be affected. We have faced more difficult times. Whenever we were faced with difficulties we have bounced back and come back stronger than before,” Mr. Bharadwaj told media. The BJP has been demanding that both Ministers be dropped from the Cabinet.
Mr. Sisodia was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday in connection with the allegation of irregularities in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped 2021-22 excise policy case. On Monday, he was sent to five-day custody of the CBI by a Delhi court.
“All allegations they have made against me, with time its truth will come out and it will be proved that all these allegations were false. But now that they have crossed all limits and put me in jail by hatching a conspiracy under false and baseless allegations, I wish to not continue as a Minister,” Mr. Sisodia said in his resignation letter in Hindi.
“It is very sad that despite working with honesty and integrity for eight years, allegations of corruption are being levelled against me. These allegations are in fact nothing more than a conspiracy of cowardly and weak people who are scared of Arvind Kejriwal’s politics of truth,” he added.
‘Go to HC’
Earlier in the day, the top court refused to intervene at this stage in a petition filed by Mr. Sisodia challenging his arrest and advised him to approach the High Court.
The Supreme Court reminded Mr. Sisodia’s lawyers that just because something has happened in the national capital does not mean the issue has to be directly brought to the apex court. Mr. Sisodia has substantial remedies under Section 482 Cr.PC to seek quashing of the case against him, the court said.
On August 17, 2022, the agency had registered a case against Mr. Sisodia and 14 others on a reference from the Union Home Ministry. As alleged, the excise policy was modified to extend undue favours to licence holders; licence fee was waived or reduced; and L-1 (wholesaler) licence was extended without the competent authority’s approval.
It is alleged that the then AAP communication and media in-charge Vijay Nair, on behalf of AAP leaders, received ₹100 crore as “kickbacks” in advance from a “South Group” whose prominent entities were YSRCP MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, his son Raghav Magunta, TRS MLC K. Kavitha and Aurobindo Pharma director P. Sarath Chandra Reddy.
According to the CBI chargesheet, the wholesale distribution of Pernod Ricard and Diageo was to go to Indo Spirits and Brindco Spirits, respectively. After getting the money back, the 6% kickbacks received from wholesalers was to be shared equally between Mr. Nair and Hyderabad-based businessman Abhishek Boinpally.
Based on the CBI case, the ED is conducting a money laundering probe and has arrested nine persons. Its chargesheet states that a portion of the alleged kickbacks was diverted through “hawala” channels for the AAP’s poll campaign in the 2022 Goa Assembly election.