SET on liquor theft: ‘Smuggled liquor flowed in Haryana during lockdown’
The findings have also prompted Haryana home minister Anil Vij to recommend departmental action against an IAS and IPS officers.Updated: Aug 08, 2020 00:12 IST
The report of a special enquiry team (SET) constituted in May by the Haryana government to inquire into the instances of pilferage of liquor from warehouses has revealed glaring deficiencies in functioning of excise and taxation department and indicated collusion of officials in smuggling and illegal sale of liquor. The findings have also prompted Haryana home minister Anil Vij to recommend departmental action against an IAS and IPS officers. Assistant editor Hitender Rao takes a close look at the report.
Why was the special enquiry team (SET) constituted by the Haryana government ?
The trigger was revelations that large amount of seized liquor was pilfered from a godown in Kharkhauda in Sonepat during the lockdown period.
What was its scope of inquiry?
The SET was mandated to check whether the stock of liquor that was there on the date of sealing a warehouse was actually available or not, to examine the cases of seizure of illicit/ non excise duty paid liquor in Haryana during April 2019 to March 2020 by the police and excise departments separately, action and fines imposed by the excise department following recovery of liquor. The probe team was also asked to collect and collate the results of investigation of the FIRs registered from March 15 till April 10 for pilferage of liquor from wholesale Indian-made foreign liquor and country liquor godowns and also from the police malkhanas.
What were findings of SET regarding illegal sale of liquor?
Illegal liquor sale in Haryana took place between April 1, 2019 and May 10, 2010, a significant quantity of liquor was smuggled from Punjab, 8,337 liquor cases (each case has 12 bottles) were seized and 250 FIRs were registered. During the lockdown, the liquor found its way into various districts of Haryana from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and also some state distilleries.
How was the illegal liquor sale made possible?
Systemic flaws in the functioning of excise department, lack of monitoring, non-implementation of its own instructions, and possibility of collusion or negligence by excise and police officials made it possible.
What did the SET say about installation of closed circuit television cameras in distilleries?
The excise and taxation commissioner (ETC) and collector (excise) admitted that they neither examined the video footage nor there are any instructions about examining the recordings, storing them and line of action in case lapses were detected. Had the department pursued the installation of video cameras in its right earnest, the possible mischief by distilleries and their ability to smuggle liquor without paying excise duty could have been checked to a great extent.
What did the SET say about an IAS and IPS officer ?
IAS officer Shekhar Vidyarthi as ETC ordered closure of liquor vends during the lockdown by only giving verbal instructions. In the absence of written instructions, permits and passes for movement of liquor were issued during the closure period by some districts. Vidyarthi was also held responsible for dilly dallying pieces of information sought by the SET and hampering the visit of the SET to a distillery.
The SET said the role of the then Sonepat superintendent of police Pratiksha Godara needs to be probed. The SET observed that despite round-the-clock police guards deputed since March 2019, regular inflow and outflow of liquor took place from Kharkhauda godown suggesting clear connivance of police, especially the then local station house officer.
What are the recommendations of SET?
Devise a track and trace system for vehicles transporting liquor to other states and passing through Haryana, put in place standard operating procedures for streaming, storage and monitoring of video footage from distilleries and godowns, thorough audit of distilleries, destruction of seized liquor in respect of finalised cases by a set deadline, sufficient storage space for seized liquor at every district headquarter.