The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has informed the Delhi High Court that the Aam Aadmi Party leader and former Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia is the “kingpin and architect of the conspiracy” in the Delhi Liquor Scam. The CBI has also submitted to the Delhi High Court that his colleagues in AAP have made efforts to shield him in various press conferences.
CBI has informed the Delhi High Court that the case involves a “deep-rooted and multi-layered conspiracy” while opposing the AAP leader’s bail plea. Furthermore, the CBI has said that Manish Sisodia has remained non-cooperative and evasive during the investigation and that he is key to unearthing the modus operandi.
On February 28, two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders, Manish Sisodia and Satyendra Jain, resigned from their ministerial posts due to an ongoing corruption investigation against them. It is pertinent to note that Manish Sisodia was Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister, and Satyendra Jain was Delhi’s Health Minister before their resignation.
AAP was born on October 2, 2012, from the 2011 India Against Corruption (IAC) movement, a civil motion against the backdrop of corruption scandals which came to light during the UPA government. The party was formed with anti-corruption activists, under the leadership of CM Arvind Kejriwal, with the promise to end corruption.
However, Arvind Kejriwal’s close aide and Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia adding to the list of AAP’s leaders under corruption investigation has inflicted another scar on AAP’s self-proclaimed honest and anti-corruption image.
Therefore, it is pertinent to look at ‘the honest and anti-corruption AAP’s decade in Indian politics, with prominent leaders investigated for corruption, bribery, money laundering, assault, rioting and more.
On March 31, a Delhi Court denied bail to Manish Sisodia in the Delhi Liquor Scam case. The Court said Manish Sisodia can “prima facie be held to be the architect of the said criminal conspiracy.”
The Special Judge MK Nagpal observed that “The payment of advance kickbacks of around Rs. 90-100 crores was meant for him and his other colleagues in the GNCTD and Rs. 20-30 crores out of the above are found to have been routed through the co-accused.” Furthermore, the Court added, “in turn, certain provisions of the excise policy were permitted to be tweaked and manipulated by the applicant to protect and preserve the interests of South liquor lobby and to ensure repayment of the kickbacks to the said lobby.”
The Delhi Court expressed apprehensions about Manish Sisodia’s destruction or tampering with evidence against him or influencing witnesses if he is released on bail. The Court said that Manish Sisodia, “there may be serious apprehensions of destruction or tampering of some further evidence and even of influencing of some prime witnesses of this case by him or at his instance, in case he is released on bail by the court.”
The Delhi Court said, “This court is not inclined to release the applicant on bail at this stage of investigation of the case as his release may adversely affect the ongoing investigation and will also seriously hamper the progress thereof.”
On February 28, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Gautam Gambhir described the Delhi Excise Policy Scam and alleged that “It was an open-and-shut case. They should get what they deserve. This is the 1st time in India that an Education Minister will go to Tihar jail, that too in a liquor scam case. This policy was made to exploit money so they can fight elections with Khalistani’s help” The BJP MP said that the AAP leaders should get “what they deserve”.
On March 23, a Delhi Court framed charges against former Aam Aadmi Party Councillor Tahir Hussain and 10 others in the Intelligence Bureau staffer Ankit Sharma murder case who was killed during Delhi Riots 2020.
The Court observed, “these acts of the mob make it clear that their objective was to harm Hindus in their body and property to maximum possible extent. It is also clearly shown that this mob consciously wanted to even kill Hindus. It cannot be said that being member of this mob, accused persons were oblivious of such objective of this mob.”
“The facts and evidence of this case also show that a number of persons had assembled at and around the house of Tahir Hussain. Some of them were equipped with firing weapons. Petrol bombs were also arranged, by accumulating the required materials in the house of Tahir Hussain. Bottles of Montain Dew were being filled with petrol near house of Tahir Hussain and was being taken inside his house, in his presence. Tahir was continuously acting in a manner of supervising and motivating this mob,” the Court added.
The Court said, “All these things were done to target Hindus. Every member of the mob assembled there participated in achieving the objective of targeting Hindus. Such conducts of the members of this mob, show that they were acting out of meeting of their mind and with a clear-cut objective in mind, to kill and harm Hindus. Thus, a criminal conspiracy to indulge into riot and to kill Hindus and harm properties of Hindus, is well reflected from the evidence on the record.”
Furthermore, the Court observed that “Tahir Hussain also played role of instigator to kill Hindus and exhorting this mob as to not to spare Hindus. He instigated the mob, when Ankit came forward towards this mob. The conspiracy need not be specifically to kill Ankit. When the accused persons were acting in pursuance to conspiracy and common object to kill Hindus, it covered killing of Ankit as well for the reasons that Ankit was killed because he was Hindu.”
Amit Rattan Kotfatta
On February 23, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau arrested AAP Bhatinda Rural MLA Amit Rattan Kotfatta from Rajpura in a bribery case. He was produced before a Bhatinda court which sent him to five-day police remand.
Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann tweeted, “Bribery by anyone, in any way, will not be tolerated. Faith, love, and expectations of the people of Punjab keep my spirits up. There will not be any mercy for those who gobble up people’s money. Law is equal for all,” in Punjabi.
Punjab Congress Chief Pratap Singh Bajwa said, “This is the third AAP MLA in less than a year who has been charged with corruption charges. Is this the ‘badlav’ (change) Mann and Arvind Kejriwal promised to the people of Punjab?” He further claimed that the Punjab government arrested Kotfatta after Congress’s pressure.
The BJP further commented on the AAP leader’s arrest on corruption charges, “First cabinet minister Singla, then cabinet minister Sarari and now MLA Kotfatta…all such incidents show that so-called Kattar Imaandar party is Kattar Beiamaan.”
On September 16, 2022, the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) arrested AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan for alleged irregularities in the Delhi Waqf Board (DWB). He is also the Chairperson of the DWB. He was arrested for suspected illegal appointments, creation of tenancies on Waqf’s properties and corruption in DWB’s purchase of vehicles.
While ACB interrogated AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan, four ACB teams raided four properties concerning the case, including his house. The teams recovered two unlicensed pistols, different calibre bullets and Rs. 24 lakhs cash from the raids. ACB Chief Madhur Verma said, “The first unlicensed pistol was recovered from Khan’s friend, Hamia Ali’s house. Ali works as his bagman for the legislator and handles his money. We recovered the second pistol from Kushar Imam Siddiqui alias Laddan. We recovered ₹24 lakh cash ( ₹12 lakhs each) from their houses. Apart from this, we have recovered property papers and details of business transactions related to the legislator. We are examining the documents.”
On March 1, 2023, Special CBI Judge MK Nagpal granted interim bail to Amanatullah Khan and ten others related to alleged irregularities in DWB’s recruitment. However, the Court noted, “Again, further investigation in the matter may take a long time to conclude, and there is no purpose behind taking or keeping the accused persons in custody awaiting conclusion thereof.”
On April 6, the Delhi High Court rejected bail for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former Delhi Cabinet Minister Satyendar Jain after noting that he is an influential person with the potential to tamper with evidence. The Court, based on the witness testimonies, said that “Satyendar Kumar Jain is the conceptualizer, visualizer and executor of the entire operation and his being aided and abated by Vaibhav Jain and Ankush Jain.”
On May 31, 2022, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested AAP leader Satyendra Jain for his alleged involvement in a money laundering case, and he has been jailed since then. Later, viral videos circulated over social media showed him taking massages in his cell, which Satyendra Jain later claimed were part of a treatment.
On November 1, 2022, Conman Sukesh Chandrasekhar wrote a letter to Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena and alleged that he had paid Rs 10 crores as “protection money” to AAP Minister Satyendra Jain. He claimed to have known him since 2015.
On November 4, 2022, he wrote another letter and alleged payment of Rs 50 crores to Delhi CM Kejriwal for the Rajya Sabha seat. He added there was another demand of Rs 200 crores. He writes in his letter that he is being terrorised at the behest of Jain and ex-DG (Prisons) of Tihar after his complaint to the Delhi LG went public. Sukesh Chandrasekhar further wrote in this letter, “After my first complaint went public in the media, Satyendra Jain started threatening me through the jail administration and the ex-DG as the truth is going to be out and they (AAP) are going to be exposed to a different level.”
Fauja Singh Sarari
On January 7, 2023, AAP leader and Punjab’s Cabinet Minister Fauja Singh Sarari resigned from his posts after his alleged audio tape discussing a plan to trap contractors through government officials for extortion with an aide went viral over social media. However, he has filed a complaint against the leaked audio and contended that the same is a conspiracy against him.
On May 24, 2022, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann sacked his MLA Vijay Singla from his ministerial post following corruption allegations. He was Punjab’s Health Minister. CM Bhagwant Mann dismissed “Singla from the Cabinet for allegedly seeking a 1% commission on tenders for contracts, etc., in the Health and Family Welfare Department, which he headed.” On July 8, 2022, the Chandigarh High Court granted bail to Vijay Singla.
Dr Balbir Singh
On May 23, 2022, AAP Patiala Rural MLA Dr Balbir Singh, including three others, was sentenced to 3 years of rigorous imprisonment in a 2011 assault case. However, all four were granted bail later.
The complainant Paramjeet Kaur is the MLA Dr Balbir Singh’s sister-in-law. The complainant alleged that MLA Dr Balbir Singh assaulted her husband on June 13, 2011. The complainant stated that she had a land dispute with MLA Dr Balbir Singh and alleged that he assaulted her husband after a court pronounced the verdict in the complainant’s favour.
Dr Balbir Singh and three other persons were sentenced to 3 years of rigorous imprisonment in a 2011 assault case on May 23, 2022. However, the AAP-led Punjab Government did not disqualify him u/s 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Furthermore, Dr Balbir Singh was sworn in as Punjab’s Cabinet Minister for Health after Fauja Singh Sarari resigned as Cabinet Minister following his controversial audio tape discussing ways to ‘trap’ contractors for extortion surfaced on social media on January 7.
On May 30, 2022, the Court stayed the Dr Balbir Singh’s conviction during the pendency of the appeal and said, “In case the conviction is not stayed, then it would also result into heavy burden on the State exchequer as the appellant would be disqualified with the present conviction and the State would be required to conduct the elections for electing a member from the said assembly constituency.”
On May 7, 2022, CBI raided three properties linked to AAP MLA Jaswant Singh concerning an alleged bank fraud worth Rs. 40 crores. The CBI raids were conducted over a complaint by the Bank of India, Ludhiana branch. The CBI team recovered 94 blank cheques from different signatories and several Aadhar cards from the raids.
CBI Spokesperson RC Joshi said, “Cash worth Rs 16.57 lakh (approx.), around 88 foreign currency notes, some property documents, several bank accounts, and other incriminating documents were found and recovered during searches.”
He added, “The borrower firm was sanctioned loans at four intervals from 2011-2014 by the Bank. It was further alleged that the firm, through its Directors, had concealed hypothecated stock and diverted book debts with malafide and dishonest intention so that the same was not made available to the creditor Bank for inspection and for effecting recovery as a secured creditor. An alleged loss of Rs. 40.92 Crore(approx.) was caused to the Bank.” Jaswant Singh was a Director at the ‘borrower firm.’
On October 13, 2018, the Income Tax (IT) Department claimed that AAP leader and Delhi’s then-Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot had evaded tax worth Rs. 120 crores. Hindustan Times reported that an IT Department official told IANS, “We have found evidence of tax evasion to the tune of Rs 120 crore.”
The official added, “The amount of tax evasion by Gahlot is a “conservative” figure as of now. Documents recovered from the Minister’s premises show office boys, peons, and other employees to have been extended loans and to be holding equity worth Rs 70 crore in several “shell” companies.” The official continued, “We have also detected several benami properties in the name of employees and a huge piece of land in the name of a driver.”
However, Kailash Gahlot denied the IT Department’s allegations calling it a “deliberate act of spreading disinformation.”
On June 14, 2016, AAP leader Gopal Rai resigned from his ministerial post after being accused of corrupt practices in implementing the Delhi government’s app-based premium bus services scheme. However, Gopal Rai cited ‘health reasons’ for his resignation. Reportedly, BJP MLA Vijender Gupta filed a complaint with the ACB alleging that the Delhi Government favoured an aggregator for the premium bus service scheme flouting norms.
On October 9, 2015, AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister (CM) sacked Asim Ahmed from his cabinet over corruption allegations of taking a bribe of Rs. 6 lakhs from a builder. However, the sacked Delhi minister claimed he was a conspiracy victim. Asim Ahmed Khan was a minister for food and civil supply, environment, and forests.
CM Arvind Kejriwal said, “I have to take this decision with deep sorrow. We received a serious allegation of corruption against Asim Ahmed Khan and a one-hour-long audio clip. We assessed the complaint and have decided to remove him from the cabinet,” at a press conference.
On September 10, 2015, AAP leader Somnath Bharti was arrested for domestic abuse based on his wife’s complaint, alleging that he assaulted her for a prolonged period. On September 29, 2015, he surrendered at Dwarka Police Station after the Delhi High Court issued a non-bailable warrant against him. However, the Delhi High Court quashed the FIR against him and dropped all proceedings against him in the domestic abuse case in 2019.
Shreeyash Mittal is a Correspondent with Organiser Weekly. He is a BBA-LLB (Hons) graduate from Jindal Global Law School.