[Liquor Policy Case] Delhi HC Denies Bail To Businessman Amandeep Singh Dhall

Read Time: 11 minutes


CBI alleged that during the formulation of the Excise Policy for 2021-22, Dhall conspired to introduce loopholes in the policy for future exploitation. Kickbacks were purportedly paid to public servants, resulting in financial gains for the conspirators in the liquor trade

The Delhi High Court, on Tuesday, denied bail to businessman Amandeep Singh Dhall on the ground of there being well-founded apprehension of him influencing the witnesses and tampering with the evidence in Delhi liquor policy scam case.

There is well-founded apprehension of the applicant herein influencing the witnesses and tampering with the evidence as, as a testament to the same an FIR stands registered against the accused”, the bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma held. 

CBI alleged that approximately Rs. 90-100 crores were allegedly advanced to individuals associated with the South Indian liquor business, known as the ‘South Group’, including Vijay Nair and Manish Sisodia. These kickbacks were supposedly routed back to the conspirators through wholesale distributors' profit margins and credit notes issued to retail zone licensees connected to the South liquor lobby. This conspiracy also allegedly formed a cartel involving liquor manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers.

The initial chargesheet against seven accused, including Amandeep Singh Dhall, was filed by the CBI on November 25, 2022. Additional investigations led to the arrest of the Dhall on April 18, 2023. Supplementary chargesheets were submitted on April 25, 2023, and July 8, 2023, against other accused individuals. Dhall’s bail application was denied by the trial court on June 9, 2023. He then approached the High Court

Senior Advocate N. Hariharan, representing Amandeep Singh Dhall, highlighted that Dhall fully cooperated with the CBI throughout the investigation, attending over 35 investigative sessions and providing necessary documents. Despite this cooperation, Dhall was arrested, and a supplementary chargesheet was filed swiftly, which was argued as unjustified given the level of cooperation.

Senior Advocate N. Hariharan argued that Dhall acted as a whistleblower by reporting irregularities in the application of M/s Indo Spirits to the Excise Department and filing petitions against certain market practices. Concerning allegations regarding involvement with the New Excise Policy 2021-22, it was clarified that Dhall was part of information-sharing WhatsApp groups but did not directly obtain any confidential documents.

On the other hand, Special Public Prosecutor D.P. Singh contended that Dhall was deeply involved in the criminal conspiracy and cartelization, maintaining close ties with co-accused individuals and facilitating meetings related to the excise policy formulation. Despite being confronted with evidence, Dhall allegedly provided misleading information and failed to cooperate during interrogation. The CBI emphasized substantial evidence of Dhall’s involvement in the conspiracy, stressing the seriousness of economic offenses and concerns over potential witness tampering.

The court noted that the application seeking regular bail was initially filed on July 5, 2023. The court observed that despite claims of prolonged delays, it was revealed that the bail application was heard by the court only on four occasions, with Dhall's actions contributing to the postponement of proceedings. Additionally, Dhall received medical treatment in private and government hospitals during this period, alleviating concerns about his well-being. Therefore, any delay in hearing the bail application cannot be attributed to the court and cannot serve as grounds for granting bail.

The argument that the liberty of an individual is his fundamental right and his incarceration being prolonged due to non-hearing by this Court is contrary to the record, and rather the conduct of the applicant in moving multiple, frequent, interim applications resulted in postponement of the date of hearing in the regular bail application, though in the meanwhile, he remained in private hospital of his choice and government hospitals on many occasions. Therefore, the delay if any in hearing the bail application cannot be imputed to any court and be made a ground for grant of bail”, the court added. 

The court observed the FIR alleging that Dhall, along with Vijay Nair, Manoj Rai, and Sameer Mahandru were actively engaged in irregularities related to the framing and implementing of the policy. It was claimed that certain wholesale distributors issued credit notes to retail vendors with the intention of diverting funds to public servants, including false entries in their accounts.

Regarding the role of the Dhall, the court noted that the evidence suggested his involvement in a criminal conspiracy with co-accused Vijay Nair, arranging meetings with members of the South Group, and facilitating kickbacks through credit notes issued by his company. The possession of confidential government documents further indicated his key role in manipulating the Excise Policy. Allegations were supported by witness statements, documentary evidence, and recovered materials, the court observed.

The applicant had paid bribe amount to and was constantly in touch with other co-accused persons in this FIR which includes an officer of the Directorate of Enforcement, to get his name deleted from the array of accused persons in the liquor scam and to ensure that he is not arrested in the present case”, the court added. 

Furthermore, the court observed the FIR registered against the Dhall for allegedly paying bribes to influence the investigation. This raised concerns about his potential to influence witnesses and tamper with evidence. Given his connections to influential figures and the serious nature of the allegations, the court found no grounds for bail at this stage. The court, therefore, dismissed the bail application.

Case Title: Amandeep Singh Dhall v Central Bureau Of Investigation (2024:DHC:4677)