Tag Archives: breaking news

59 dead in Tamil Nadu hooch tragedy

At least 59 people have died so far and another 156 persons have been hospitalised after consuming illicit liquor in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi district. As per reports, illicit liquor called ‘packet arrack’ was consumed by these people.

The police said bootleggers were selling ‘packet arrack’ and they have been arrested on charges of selling illicit arrack. The Police also seized over 200 litres of ‘packet arrack’. Samples tested at a forensic laboratory in Villupuram were found to have the poisonous methanol. Several people from Kallakurichi and neighbouring areas had consumed illicit arrack sold by bootleggers at Karunapuram. On reaching home, most of them complained of giddiness, headache, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain and irritation in the eyes. They were admitted to hospitals in  Kallakurichi, Villupuram, Salem and Puducherry.

Meanwhile, the DMK government headed by Chief Minister, M.K.Stalin has shunted out the District Collector and suspended the Superintendent of Police. The government has ordered a probe by the CB-CID of Tamil Nadu police under the charge of Superintendent of Police Shantharam.  As per government reports,  seven people including a bootlegger by name K.Govindaraj alias Kannukutti, have been arrested.

The Tamil Nadu government has also announced a judicial inquiry headed by retired judge of Madras high court, Justice B Gokuldas. The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Tamil Nadu Government and the Director General of Police seeking a full report on the tragedy.

Not satisfied with this, the AIADMK has demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and its legislators in the Tamil Nadu Assembly have disturbed the proceedings in Assembly, leading to the Speaker suspending them for a day.  

The Madras High Court also had pulled up the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Tamil Nadu government over the tragedy, citing similar incidents in Villupuram and Chengalpattu districts last year. The court demanded to know why such instances were repeatedly occurring in the state. A Division Bench of Justices D Krishnakumar and K Kumaresh Babu was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the AIADMK legal wing secretary I S Inbadurai. In his petition, he sought a CBI probe.

The Chief minister MK Stalin who has held several meetings with officials has expressed pain and shock and has announced Rs. 10 lakh as ex gratia to the next of kin, while those hospitalised will receive Rs. 5000. The government will also take care of the educational expenses and hostel fees of the children until the age of 18 of those who have lost either one or both parents in the Kallakurichi hooch tragedy.

Court orders closure of two Tasmac outlets

Meanwhile, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court ordered the immediate closure of two Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac) outlets on Boothipuram Road near Palanichettipatti. It directed the Theni collector to inquire into the allegation of authorities failing to control the illegal sale of liquor.

A division Bench of Justices R Suresh Kumar and G Arul Murugan, while hearing the PIL petition filed by U Aajik Arabukani from Palanichettipatti, directed the Tasmac manager and the Theni Superintendent of Police to assist the collector in the inquiry and file a report.

The court said that the documents and electronic evidence produced by the petitioner disclosed several irregularities in the functioning of Tasmac shop numbers 8576 and 8516. The court observed that a “cartel” arrangement seems to be going on between the supervisors, staff at the Tasmac shops, bar owners and others in the locality. In spite of filing 17 FIRs with the Palanichettipatti police, no effective action has been taken by Tasmac authorities or the police, which is the reason behind the agony of the residents, observed the court.

The court reprimanded the counsel, who appeared for the Tasmac district manager, one of the respondents in the case, for seeking more time to inquire into the matter. “It is not an isolated incident as it has been going on for the last few months. The first FIR had been registered on January 7, 2024, and 17 FIRs have been registered since then. The manager cannot make lame excuses.” Meanwhile, the state-run liquor retailer Tasmac said 500 retail shops selling alcoholic beverages will be closed down in Tamil Nadu, implementing a Government Order (GO) issued earlier for their closure. Out of the 5,329 retail liquor outlets across the state (as on March 31, 2023), 500 shops would be identified and closed down.

AAP MP Sanjay Singh arrested, the liquor scam dragnet spreads

  • ED files chargesheet stating Singh got Rs. 3 crores
  • AAP claims vendetta for raising Adani issue

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on October 3 arrested Aam Aadmi Party Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh with regard to the Delhi liquor scam.  Sanjay Singh has been remanded to 5-day ED custody by Special Judge M.K.Nagpal. After the former Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia was arrested, Singh is the next high profile leader to get arrested.

The noose around the leaders of AAP seems to be tightening and the apex court made an observation why the AAP is not a party in the case, since the agencies have been mentioning that AAP has been the beneficiary. The BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala and MP Parvesh Verma alleged that Kejriwal is the “kingpin” behind the “scam” and his role will soon be investigated.

While the onus continues to be on the agencies to prove that these leaders and the party have ‘illegally’ benefitted from the excise policy, the AAP is crying hoarse that it is ‘vendetta’ politics and that ‘no money’ was found by the agencies in any of the raids.  However, this time the agencies have put it on record that the AAP MP benefited by Rs. 2 crores.

The  ED has told the Rouse Avenue Court that Rs. 2 crore in cash was delivered to Sanjay Singh’s residence.  The ED made startling revelations that the cash was given in two tranches to Sanjay Singh and a total of Rs 3 crore was given. This cash delivery was confirmed by Dinesh Arora, an accused-turned-approver and the ED said this was confirmed by the AAP MP himself. Dinesh Arora, it is claimed, was a close aide of Sisodia. And Arora was arrested by the ED under criminal sections of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in a case linked to the liquor scam.

Further consolidating on its evidence, the ED said Dinesh Arora’s chartered accountant had confirmed that the cash was delivered to Singh’s residence and has seized documents that corroborate the same. The ED reportedly conducted searches in 239 locations while seizing documents and phone of Sanjay Singh and told the court that it is examining the documents and other evidence and needed 10-day remand of the AAP leader.

Unlike in Sisodia’s case where the ED has not established any money trail, the ED this time is stating that it has established the trail between the two individuals and the AAP MP was instrumental in formulating the Delhi Excise policy which was revoked, post the scandal. In the charge sheet, the ED stated Arora met Singh at a party in the latter’s restaurant ‘Unplugged Courtyard’ and Singh is said to have asked Arora to generate funds from restaurant-owners for the Aam Aadmi party for the Delhi Assembly elections. He said he gave a cheque of Rs 82 lakh.

The charge sheet further mentioned that Arora in his statement that another accused, Amit Arora, sought help in shifting his liquor shop from Okhla to Pitampura. The ED said Singh was involved in getting this done through the help of Sisodia who in turn got it sorted by the Excise Department. Further Arora claimed that he met the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal once at his residence with Singh while he had spoken to Sisodia five-six times.

“They are just putting false cases. Nothing comes out in the investigation. This is a waste of time for the investigative agencies. The country will not progress by putting false cases on people,” said Kejriwal.

AAP takes to streets

The Kejriwal-led party has gone to the streets stating that the ED was targeting Singh as he has been raising the Adani issue in Parliament and outside. AAP spokesperson Reena Gupta said, “Sanjay Singh kept on raising questions on the issue of Adani and this is why the raids are being conducted at his residence. The Central agencies found nothing earlier and won’t find anything today either. First, they conducted raids at the residence of some journalists yesterday and today, raids conducted at Sanjay Singh’s residence.”

The now scrapped Delhi Excise policy was rolled out in November 2021 for the 2021-22 financial year, marking the exit of the Delhi government from retail sales of alcohol. It allowed private players to bid for licenses. The investigating agencies have alleged  that kickbacks were paid to implement the excise policy which was scrapped after Delhi’s lieutenant governor VK Saxena asked for an investigation into alleged irregularities.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has questioned both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED why the AAP has not been named as a beneficiary. The apex court asked how was a case made based on some “pressure groups” seeking policy change and whether bribery was involved. “We understand there was a policy change and everyone will support policies which are good for business. Pressure groups are always there but policy changes without money consideration will not matter. It’s the money part which makes it an offence. If we go to an extent to say that there cannot be any pressure groups, no government can function…Lobbying will always be there. Of course, bribes cannot be accepted,” the SC bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti said. The Additional Solicitor General argued that the policy was introduced to benefit the wholesalers and increase their share of profit. “Under the old policy, there was no way you can get the kickback and hence, there arose the need for policy change.”

“You have to establish a chain. The money has to flow from the liquor lobby to the person concerned. We agree with you that it’s difficult to establish the chain because everything is done under cover. But that’s where the competence of investigators comes in,” the bench added.

Sisodia was arrested by the CBI on February 26 after the agency alleged that many ineligible vendors were awarded licences by the Delhi government in exchange for bribes. The liquor policy, introduced in November 2022, was withdrawn eight months later amid allegations of corruption. Sisodia has been in custody since then. The ED arrested him in a money laundering case stemming from the CBI FIR on March 9. Sisodia resigned from the Delhi cabinet on February 28.

By R.Chandrakanth