In a major setback to the Aam Aadmi Party, a Delhi court on Monday sent arrested Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia to five days Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) custody in connection with the now-scrapped liquor policy case.
Special judge M.K. Nagpal of the Rouse Avenue Courts, who had reserved his order after arguments from both sides, pronounced his order sending the AAP leader to custody till March 4.
The agency arrested Sisodia on Sunday after eight hours of questioning.
Appearing for the probe agency, Special Public Prosecutor Pankaj Gupta argued: "Investigation has revealed that Sisodia verbally directed the Secretary to put a new cabinet note to bring about the change and variance in the policy. He was heading the Group of Ministers constituted by the cabinet for the Excise Policy...The profit margin was enhanced from 5 per cent to 12 per cent. He could not explain why the changes were made."
He said that the agency was asking for his phone which he has been using since January 2020.
Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for Sisodia, said: "Their grounds for remand are not tenable in law at all. All the arguments about profit margin were approved by the LG. The LG, who is the complainant in the case, approved it in May 2021."
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As the CBI had alleged that Sisodia destroyed three of his four phones, Krishnan said that the agency claimed Sisodia used four phones, three of which are destroyed, asking what was his client supposed to do - keep those phones in anticipation that the agency will come and arrest him?
"Their case is I did not answer in the way they wanted me to answer. I will show why that is not a ground for remand. If your lordships grant remand for self-incrimination then that would be a travesty," he said.
Another counsel appearing for Sisodia, senior advocate Mohit Mathur said: "Today an Investigating Officer wants to go behind what an elected government wants to do and the constitutional functionary (L-G) has approved it. Much has been made about the change from 5 per cent to 12 per cent. Please note that it was part of the note that was sent to the LG and no changes were suggested by the LG."
Senior advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, also appearing for the Deputy CM, submitted: "I am the Finance Minister (of Delhi). I have to present the Budget. Your Honour has to see the timing of the arrest. It is my submission that this case is an assault on not only an individual but even the institution. The remand in this case will send a very wrong message."
The CBI on Sunday after arresting Sisodia had said that they arrested him for alleged irregularities in framing and implementation of the excise policy as he gave "evasive replies" and "did not co-operate in the investigation".
It said that the present case was registered against the Deputy Chief Minister & In charge Excise Minister, and 14 others for investigation into the matter of alleged irregularities in framing and implementation of Excise Policy for 2021-22 and extending post tender benefits to private persons.
A charge sheet was filed on December 25, 2022 against then CEO of a Mumbai-based private company and six others. Sisodia was issued a notice under Section 41A of the Cr.P.C for attending the investigation on February 19.
"However, Sisodia sought time of one week citing his pre-occupation. Accepting his request, he was issued a second notice under Section 41A Cr.P.C for attending the investigation on February 26. He was called to answer various questions which he evaded during his examination on October 17, 2022 and further questions relating to his incriminating role based on evidence collected during investigation of the case," said the CBI.
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However, it claimed that Sisodia "gave evasive replies and did not co-operate the investigation despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary" and was therefore, placed under arrest.