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Friday, July 12, 2024

No Bail for Arvind Kejriwal, Sentenced to 3-Day CBI Custody

Arvind Kejriwal has been sent to the custody of the CBI for three days, following his arrest by the federal agency in the alleged liquor policy case. The agency had asked for custody for five days.

Mr Kejriwal was arrested by the CBI – inside Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court – and then, inside a tumultuous hour, withdrew a Supreme Court petition challenging a stay on grant of bail after his arrest in March – in the same case – by the Enforcement Directorate.

The top court petition was withdrawn – the ED offered no objection – citing a desire to launch a more substantial appeal against the High Court’s decision to stay the Rouse Avenue Court’s bail order.

“I Told CBI 3 Points…”: Kejriwal To The Court

In the Rouse Avenue Court this morning, Mr Kejriwal’s lawyers argued that the agency’s move to arrest the AAP boss at this point showed it had acted “in a most biased manner”. The reference was to the fact the CBI had already quizzed him in connection with this case – for nine hours in April last year.

Mr Kejriwal had then been questioned as a witness in the case. Today he addressed the court directly and recounted what he told the CBI when asked why the liquor policy in question was framed.

“I told them (the CBI) there were three points. First – increase revenue. Second – reduce crowds to handle law and order. Third – opening of liquor shops in the right proportion (i.e., equal distribution across the city). I had given instructions to Manish Sisodia (his former deputy, who, in February last year, was the first to be arrested in this case) to keep these three things in mind in the policy.”

Mr Kejriwal’s legal team criticised the CBI for moving to arrest him at this point.

“It is a poor citizen vs might of the State. This case is pending since August 2022. I was called as a witness… I appeared and, for nine hours, I assisted. Not a single notice (from the CBI) since then. How did they shift from a witness to an accused… it is a long distance to cover,” they argued.

Mr Kejriwal also asked for this hearing to be deferred by 24 hours so he could study the CBI’s case.

CBI Slams Allegations

“Unnecessary allegations. We could have done this before, or even during, the election. We did not… it  (the interrogation) was done only after the court’s permission,” the CBI responded.

The federal agency also pointed out it had no obligation to announce the start of an investigation. “Suppose there is an inquiry… I don’t have to tell (Mr Kejriwal)… Who I have to tell is to the court – that I need custody. There is no mandate I have to tell the other side about my desire to investigate.”

Following Mr Kejriwal’s arrest in court, his party posted a sharp message on X.

“Today when the BJP felt Delhi’s son, Arvind Kejriwal, might get bail from the Supreme Court, they again hatched a conspiracy – to get him arrested by CBI in a fake case. But every conspiracy of the BJP will be answered (and the) truth will win in the end,” the party said in Hindi.

Following the arrest the CBI also asked for five-day custody of Mr Kejriwal.

Kejriwal In Rouse Avenue, High, And Supreme Court

The Delhi Chief Minister’s fortunes since the Rouse Avenue Court gave him regular bail last week has been significant. On Saturday, hours before his release from Tihar Jail, the ED moved the High Court, arguing the lower court’s “perverse” and “completely flawed” bail order ought not to stand.

The High Court then passed an oral directive to immediately pause the bail order and, on Monday,  Mr Kejriwal moved the Supreme Court to overturn that stay. The top court declined to oblige.

The Supreme Court acknowledged the High Court’s actions as “unusual”; Justice Manoj Misra said, “In stay matters, orders are not reserved but passed on the spot. What happened was unusual.”

However, the court also indicated it would be improper to interfere as the High Court had reserved its verdict. The court responded to Mr Kejriwal’s arguments – that the High Court erred in staying his bail without fully reading the order of the lower court – by saying it would wait till the said order came on record, and the High Court had a chance to re-examine the stay – before ruling on his plea.

On Tuesday, as it said it would, the High Court did pass its final order.

And it was not good news for Arvind Kejriwal.

It argued the lower court – the Rouse Avenue Court – “didn’t apply its mind” when granting bail and pointed to what it said were lapses in judgement. These included not giving the prosecution enough time to argue the application and failing to properly discuss conditions for release in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, under which Mr Kejriwal was charged.

“Averments and allegations made in the main petition (in which the prosecution challenged Mr Kejriwal’s bail order) require due consideration…,” the High Court said, declaring the lower court had also failed to “discuss the vicarious liability of Arvind Kejriwal under Section 70 of the PMLA”.

Mr Kejriwal, the court concluded, would remain in jail after his arrest in March by the ED.

Why Can’t I Be Free?” Kejriwal Argued

Earlier this week in the top court – which last month granted him interim bail so he could campaign in the general election – the AAP leader argued that the “balance of convenience” was in his favour.

“If bail is reversed, he will go back to jail… as he did after the Supreme Court’s interim release,” senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi had said. He also referred to the order granting Mr Kejriwal that interim bail, which acknowledged that the AAP leader is not a “habitual offender” and has no criminal antecedents.

“Why can’t I be free in the interim? I have a judgment in my favour…” he had asked.

Last Thursday Mr Kejriwal was given regular bail by the Rouse Avenue Court.

The court accepted his argument that the case against him rested only on statements from former accused who have since turned government witnesses.

“Circumstances have to be so intrinsically linked (as to) lead to the guilt. Statements by tainted persons discredit prosecution’s case. There is no evidence ₹ 100 crore came from ‘South Group’. There is no evidence,” he argued.

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