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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

No Immediate Relief From High Court, Arvind Kejriwal To Stay In Custody

Arvind Kejriwal will spend at least another night in jail after the Delhi High Court refused a petition Wednesday, challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in the alleged liquor policy scam.

The court has issued a notice asking the ED to respond to Mr Kejriwal’s petition, and given the probe agency time till April 2 to do so. The next hearing in this case is on April 3.

Mr Kejriwal is currently in ED custody; he is being held in the lock-up at the agency’s Delhi office.

On Thursday the agency’s 7-day custody of the AAP leader expires and he will be back in court (this time in Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court), where, most likely, the authorities will ask for further custody.

In a long-drawn and intense hearing today, Mr Kejriwal’s legal team slammed the Enforcement Directorate’s “delaying tactics” after the agency asked for three weeks’ time to respond.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the ED, said the copy of the petition had been served late, and that he needed time to study the document. Senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Mr Kejriwal, said the petition had been filed on March 23. “Defects were cured later. I am sure Mr Raju does not want us to serve a defective copy to him… we shared petition with him.”

In his petition, Mr Kejriwal had said his arrest had violated his human rights, and that the Enforcement Directorate had failed to prove the alleged crime.

“Arrest without interrogation shows the current action is politically motivated,” Mr Singhvi argued, underlining the AAP’s claim that Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest was timed to disrupt the party’s campaign for next month’s Lok Sabha election.

In response, Mr Raju said the ED sought to file replies on the main matter and on the petition for interim relief. When the court pointed out it had already said it will issue a notice in the former, he said, “On interim relief also, I have the right to file a reply. If I am not entitled to file a reply, then there is no need to hear me. I can’t be deprived of my right to file a reply.”

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate last week in connection with the alleged liquor policy scam that has roiled his AAP and provoked furious protests from the opposition ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election. Mr Kejriwal was this week sent to jail till March 28.

The Enforcement Directorate believes the now-scrapped liquor policy provided an impossibly high profit margin of 185 per cent for retailers and 12 per cent for wholesalers. Of the latter, six per cent – over ₹ 600 crore – were bribes and the money was allegedly used to fund the AAP’s poll campaigns.

The ED has labelled the Chief Minister as a key conspirator in this case, but Mr Kejriwal and party colleagues arrested in this matter – ex-Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, and former Health Minister Satyendar Jain – have all denied the charges.

The AAP and the opposition have hit out at the BJP-led central government for using central agencies, like the ED, to target rivals and critics before the general election. The AAP has criticised Mr Kejriwal’s arrest on grounds it was timed to interfere with his plans to campaign for the party.

The BJP has dismissed claims it uses central agencies as described by the opposition.

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