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Thursday, July 02, 2020

Haryana liquor scam: SET says documents not submitted, excise officials say demands beyond mandate

This comes even as the Haryana government Saturday granted a two-month extension to the SET that was constituted on the orders of Home Minister Anil Vij on May 11 and was supposed to submit its report by May 31.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach | Chandigarh | Published: May 31, 2020 12:32:31 am
liquor scam, Anil Vij, SET probe, Haryana news, indian express news However, Home Minister Anil Vij has been insisting that he doesn’t want to see the issue turning into ‘home versus excise department’ adding “I just want a fair and in-depth probe”. (File Photo)

The Special Enquiry Team (SET) probing Haryana’s liquor scam has claimed that the excise and taxation department has not submitted required documents to it till date. Hitting back, the excise officials claim the SET’s demands were beyond its mandate.

This comes even as the Haryana government Saturday granted a two-month extension to the SET that was constituted on the orders of Home Minister Anil Vij on May 11 and was supposed to submit its report by May 31.

“(SET head) TC Gupta has written to the government that the excise department has not given the documents to the SET, so the team may be given two months more to complete the probe. Following their request, the government has given extension to the team for two months,” Vij told The Sunday Express.

The excise and taxation department officials, however, denied blocking any information to the probe team and added that the Additional Excise and Taxation officer, Vijay Singh, himself is part of the SET. “Not only this, the SET is calling time and again the Deputy Excise and Taxation Commissioners (DETCs) to seek the information. Problem arises when the SET seeks information, which is not mentioned in the enquiry’s terms of reference. It seeks even that information, which was to be submitted to the Chief Minister directly,” said an official requesting anonymity.

Sources say the issue may lead to confrontation as a feeling among the officials of excise and taxation department is emerging that entire focus is being shifted towards them while “the police was responsible for the security of the godowns from where liquor theft took place”.

However, Vij has been insisting that he doesn’t want to see the issue turning into ‘home versus excise department’ adding “I just want a fair and in-depth probe”.

Vij is a BJP leader while excise and taxation department is with Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, a senior leader of Khattar government’s alliance partner Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). Sources said the SET has asked from the excise and taxation department for certain information related to stocks of liquor distilleries, wholesale liquor shops and liquor vends. There are reports of theft of liquor from many places. A JJP leader Satvinder Rana has also been arrested in connection with a liquor theft case.

Key member retires

Even before the SET submits it preliminary report, a key member of the team and an ADGP rank police officer Subhash Yadav has retired from the police department Saturday prompting the government to replace him by another IPS officer Mohammad Akil, who is currently posted as Additional Director General of Police, ADGP (Headquarters).

Vij had asked the Home Secretary to empower the SET with section 32 of the CrPC to enable it to summon the witnesses. But despite all efforts by Vij, the probe team could not be empowered with more legal powers as a proposal for the same did not find approval from states’ top legal experts; the Legal Remembrancer and Advocate General.

There were reports of theft or shortage of liquor in godowns at many places in the state during the lockdown. The SET has been asked to examine various aspects of the matter, including cases registered from March 15 to May 10 for pilferage of liquor from godowns and police stations’ malkhanas.

About 5,500 boxes of liquor which were recovered from smugglers by police and excise officials in 14 cases had disappeared from its stock in Sonipat district which had prompted the probe into the matter.

In a separate case related to theft of liquor from a godown, the police have also arrested former MLA Satvinder Rana.

Meanwhile, an accused in the liquor smuggling case registered in Sonipat in March this year has been declined anticipatory bail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. A raid conducted by the authorities had found two trucks with 285 boxes of liquor — 23,280 bottles — near mobile tower Gopalpur. The police had been told that a contractor after purchasing the liquor from Punjab at cheaper rates sells the same at higher rates in Haryana to earn profits.

A single bench in the order passed on May 27 declined the pre-arrest bail to accused Satish alias Shakti, saying his name figures in the FIR itself, has been named by two co-accused and also that it was a case of heavy recovery. However, the Court in the order also gave a liberty to the accused to surrender within two weeks while asking the trial court to endeavour to dispose of his application for regular bail within ten days of the filing of such application.

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