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Thursday, May 30, 2024

“Undertrial Prisoners Have No Right To…”: Arvind Kejriwal Bail Hearing

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal – arrested in the alleged liquor policy scam – lashed out at the Enforcement Directorate Wednesday, declaring “the sole purpose of the arrest is to humiliate me… to incapacitate me”. Arguing for interim relief before the Delhi High Court, Mr Kejriwal said the ED had acted without any “inquiry, statement, or material that could be the basis of an arrest”. 

The AAP boss – whose arrest on March 21, with the election weeks away, led to furious protests and claims the ruling BJP is trying to shut down rival parties to ensure a big win – accused the agency of preventing him from participating in elections. “Efforts are being made to break AAP,” he said.

Appearing for Mr Kejriwal, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi began his argument by claiming “sole purpose of the arrest (of the Delhi Chief Minister) is to humiliate… incapacitate” the AAP, which is seen by many as the only real challenger to the BJP for Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha seats.

“Efforts are being made to break AAP,” he said, arguing that the ED “does not have any evidence” and that the arrest of the sitting Chief Minister was unwarranted, particularly before an election.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, representing the Enforcement Directorate, issued a strong rejoinder to arguments about the timing of Mr Kejriwal’s arrest, declaring “criminals are supposed to be arrested and put in jail”. “Under-trial prisoners have no right to say, ‘we will commit a crime and we will not be arrested because elections are here’. This is completely ridiculous,” Mr Raju declared.

What Enforcement Directorate Said

“Suppose a political person commits a murder before the election. Will he not be arrested? Will his arrest harm (the election)? You commit a murder and say I cannot be arrested because it will violate…” Mr Raju declared, trying to draw a parallel to the corruption charges against Mr Kejriwal.

The ED – which Mr Kejriwal earlier said had no real evidence of his involvement, much less his central role in the alleged scam – also insisted “a money trail is there… we have traced the money trail”.

The ED further waved away claims by Mr Kejriwal that his arrest, and those of his colleagues, including former Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, was largely based on statements by accused-turned-approvers (or government witnesses). The AAP has pointed to a pattern – the first of multiple statements provided by each former accused does not name Mr Kejriwal, Mr Sisodia, or others.

It is only after arrest and questioning that statements are changed, the AAP has alleged.

Responding to this – which question was also posed by the Supreme Court Tuesday, as it gave AAP MP Sanjay Singh bail – Mr Raju argued accused persons may change their statement after being presented with evidence. “When accused is confronted with material (then) they say ‘I was wrong’.”

“You cannot avoid statements and say, ‘No, no… these cannot be trusted. Cash payment was made… cash that was not accounted for. Source of the cash was a bribe… it could be ₹ 100 crore or a little less than that. This has been accepted by the AAP candidate as well,” he continued.

“We have WhatsApp chats and statements of hawala operators. We have a lot of data…”

In a detailed pushback to arguments by Mr Kejriwal’s lawyer, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the Additional Solicitor General insisted the Chief Minister is “personally involved in all of this”.

Arvind Kejriwal’s Bail Argument

Mr Singhvi earlier argued the ED “does not have any evidence” and that the agency made no attempt to first take his statement; this was when an ED team was at the Chief Minister’s residence.

“‘Level playing field’ (before an election) is not just a phrase. It is part of ‘free and fair elections’ which is part of a democratic structure. This case reeks of timing issues,” Mr Singhvi began.

“What is this urgency? I am not talking about politics… I am talking about law,” he continued, arguing the arrest was meant to “demolish Aam Aadmi Party before first vote is cast”.

Mr Singhvi also questioned the ED over the issue of multiple summons to the Chief Minister, particularly after the AAP leader had moved the court to challenge the agency’s call.

“…my not responding to summons is a nice point of prejudice… it is a red herring,” he said, referring to the nine letters sent by the ED demanding that Mr Kejriwal join the investigation.

“Was there a possibility of Arvind Kejriwal fleeing? Did he try to influence any witness in one-and-a half years? Did he refuse to be questioned?” the senior advocate asked.

Mr Singhvi also referred to the clutch of statements against the Delhi Chief Minister.

“…in first statements there will be nothing against me. Then some are arrested and, for first time, they give a statement against me and get bail without objection. Then they get pardon and become approver,” he said, “It’s a completely biased approach. It’s not the way criminal law can be applied.”

This point was also made Tuesday, when the Supreme Court granted bail to AAP MP Sanjay Singh, who had been arrested in October in the same case.

The court observed Dinesh Arora – one of the accused-turned-approvers – did not implicate Mr Singh initially. Mr Singh was arrested after he was named in a later statement. Dinesh Arora got bail in August.

“Prosecution is saying, ’till you give statement against Kejriwal, I’ll keep recording…'”

“Is it not shameful? Out of 13 statements by (Magunta) Reddy, he says nothing in 11. But the judge will go by one? All others are also under Section 50 (of the PMLA),” Mr Singhvi said.

Arvind Kejriwal In Tihar Jail

Mr Kejriwal – whom the ED has said is the “kingpin” in the alleged scam – is currently in Delhi’s Tihar Jail; on Tuesday he was remanded to judicial custody till April 15, after spending over 10 days in the agency’s lock-up. The ED did not seek further custody but said his release could hamper its probe.

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(Source: NDTV)

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