Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij Thursday announced that the state Vigilance Bureau will be investigating the alleged multi-crore liquor smuggling scam. Vij’s announcement came hours after Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, who also holds the excise portfolio, claimed that his department has earned at least Rs 272 crore more in revenue in May-August period this year compared to the corresponding period last year.
Talking to mediapersons, Vij emphasised that the probe will be conducted “in each and every district” on the basis of recommendations given by a Special Enquiry Team (SET) in its report.
Vij disclosed that Chief Secretary Keshni Anand Arora has already sought an explanation from Excise and Taxation Commissioner (ETC) Shekhar Vidyarthi and the home department will be seeking the same from IPS officer Prateeksha Godara, the then superintendent of police (Sonipat).
The SET had raised several questions on the conduct of both the officers, in its report. The SET constituted on May 7 had submitted its report to the home department on July 30 and pointed out “huge unauthorised movement of liquor stocks across the state during Covid lockdown period”.
Without taking any names, but in an apparent contradiction to Dushyant’s earlier claims that he had spoken with Vij and asked him to probe the liquor smuggling amid the pandemic, Vij said that “SET was not constituted on any politician’s recommendation. No politician asked me to look into it. But, the SET did its job and submitted its report. I had forwarded my recommendations to the chief minister which he endorsed. On August 10, chief minister asked chief secretary to take further action on each and every such recommendation. CS wrote a letter to ACS (Home) and another to ACS (Excise) on August 25. The CS asked both officers to get departmental inquiries conducted in their respective departments on the basis of findings given by the SET in its report. The CS has also sought Excise and Taxation Commissioner Shekhar Vidyarthi’s explanation. Similarly, CS has also asked home department to seek IPS officer Prateeksha Godara’s explanation”.
“On my recommendation to get the matter thoroughly investigated by vigilance department, chief minister has accepted it fully and chief secretary has written to vigilance department to probe the entire matter, thoroughly,” Vij added.
What Vij recommended, and Khattar endorsed
- Thorough enquiry and disciplinary action against the then SP (Sonipat) IPS officer Prateeksha Godara.
- Thorough enquiry and disciplinary action against Excise and Taxation Commissioner IAS officer Shekhar Vidyarthi.
- Departmental enquiries against other officers/officials of the excise and police department as per observations of SET, in its report.
- Lodging of FIRs by state Vigilance Bureau and thorough enquiry based on observations of SET.
What Khattar wrote
On August 10, Khattar ordered that “since the proposal of the home department/findings of SET involved departmental officers of two departments, IAS, IPS and HCS officers, the file be transferred in original to chief secretary and I expect that this would result in not only coordinated but also expeditious action on every recommendation and proposal”.
What Vigilance Bureau will probe
The state Vigilance Bureau is going to probe the SET’s findings based on a paragraph of the report. “The shortage/ excess of liquor stocks during a short period (Covid lockdown period). It has also been learnt that huge shortages/excesses have been reported in other districts as well but the information is not being supplied by the department for reasons best known to it. ETC has already admitted issuance of permits/passes in some districts during lockdown period and has supplied information vide his letter dated June 1, 2020. There was no rationale for physical movement of stocks during the lockdown period. Hence, it is evident that there was huge unauthorised movement of liquor during lockdown. The complicity of some of the excise officers in this regard is writ large on the face of it and the pollution on the part of some of the police officials also cannot be ruled out, which needs to be probed because it was the period when there was a complete lockdown and movement of not even a single soul except those involved in essential duties was permitted”.