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Delhi to revert to old liquor policy as controversy over new one engulfs AAP

Amid the ongoing investigation by Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) and a faceoff between the Lt-Governor and the Delhi government, the liquor policy row in the capital has taken a fresh turn. With only two days left for the current excise policy to expire, the Delhi government has decided to go back to the old regime of retail liquor sales for six months.

The Excise Policy 2021-22, which was extended twice after March 31 for two months each, will expire on July 31.

The excise department is still working on the excise policy 2022-23, which recommends, among other things, home delivery of liquor in Delhi. The draft policy has yet to be sent to Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena for approval, officials said.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the excise portfolio, directed the department on Thursday to “revert” to the old regime of the excise policy for a period of six months till a fresh policy is in place.

According to an official document, the finance department has directed the excise commissioner to coordinate with the heads of four corporations of the Delhi government for details of liquor vends operated by them before the new excise policy came into effect from November 17, 2021.

The four corporations– Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC), Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC), Delhi Consumer’s Cooperative Wholesale Store (DCCWS), and Delhi State Civil Supplies Corporation (DSCSC)– were running the majority of liquor stores prior to the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.

Under the new policy, 849 liquor vends were awarded to private companies through open bidding. The city was divided into 32 zones, each with a maximum of 27 vends. Instead of individual licences, bidding was done zone-by-zone, with each bidder allowed to bid for a maximum of two zones.

Previously, four government corporations ran 475 of Delhi’s total 864 liquor stores. Individually owned private stores numbered 389.

The departments which operated the government liquor shops under the old excise policy were asked on Friday to provide details such as names of old vends, their location, staff deployed in previous regimes, rented premises owned by the PSU, and the present status of the premises (vacant or occupied).

Earlier this month, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation into alleged rule violations and procedural flaws in the implementation of the excise policy.

He also directed the Delhi chief secretary to conduct an investigation into the role of excise department officials in the alleged irregularities, as well as a complaint of ‘cartelisation’ in the bidding process for retail liquor licences.

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