An “internal inquiry” by the state excise and taxation department and the committee of deputy commissioners have revealed a shortage of nearly one crore liquor bottles from the stock during the lockdown period, senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala Saturday said, adding it was clearly a case of liquor smuggling and illegal sale of liquor when there was prohibition active in Haryana
“Similarly, the enquiry has found little over 19 lakh bottles (of unauthorized liquor) in ‘excess’ too. The inference is clear, this is stolen liquor from one distillery or the other which has been taken out without payment of excise duty,” Surjewala said.
Reacting, a senior government official, while playing down the figure of missing bottles, said, “More than 3.2 crore bottles are sold every month in Haryana”.
A senior functionary associated with the excise and taxation department told The Indian Express that they would like to comment on the issue later but admitted detection of shortage in the stocks.
On the initiative of Home Minister Anil Vij, the government had formed a Special Enquiry Team (SET) to probe theft of liquor from the government stocks during the lockdown. However, the team has claimed that the excise and taxation department has not submitted required documents to it till date. “(SET head) TC Gupta has written to the government that the excise department has not given the documents to the SET,” Vij had earlier told The Indian Express.
The excise officials had claimed the SET’s demands were beyond its mandate adding, “The 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.”
Surjewala said the government SET it lacked powers as only a SIT constituted under sections 2(h) and 2(o) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was empowered to conduct a comprehensive investigation by visiting every godown linked to the alleged scam, confiscate documents, conduct raids, check records of the Excise Department and the police, and arrest the culprits.
“Between May 11 and June 27, even this toothless SET tried hard to peruse the record of the Department of Excise and Taxation in order to determine what kind of liquor scam happened, but the record has not been shown to them,” the Congress leader said.
“The facts prima facie demonstrate a sinister nexus between the liquor mafia and those occupying high offices in the government that is obstructing the investigation of the liquor scam. Does it establish ‘operation cover-up’ instead of investigating the ‘liquor scam’? Is the Khattar government protecting the ‘liquor mafia’, instead of punishing it? Will Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar answer,” he asked.
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