Delhi HC refuses to immediately interfere with Kejriwal arrest, remand by ED

Petition for interim relief will be heard along with main petition on April 3; ED must have opportunity for detailed response, says judge; arrest of sitting CM on cusp of polls against Constitution, says CM’s counsel

Updated - March 28, 2024 08:36 pm IST

Published - March 27, 2024 11:00 am IST - New Delhi

Water cannons being used to disperse BJP supporters during a protest demanding the resignation of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who is in ED custody in the Liquor Excise Policy case. in New Delhi on March 26, 2024.

Water cannons being used to disperse BJP supporters during a protest demanding the resignation of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who is in ED custody in the Liquor Excise Policy case. in New Delhi on March 26, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to immediately interfere with the remand of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case linked to the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy. Instead, his petition for interim relief will be considered along with his main petition, the court said.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma issued notice to the ED on Mr. Kejriwal’s petition challenging his arrest on March 21 and subsequent remand to the agency on March 22 till March 28.

While posting the case for hearing on April 3, the judge said that, to reach a conclusion as to whether the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor was entitled to immediate release or not, she would “necessarily have to decide the issues raised in the main petition”.

Also read:Arvind Kejriwal arrest LIVE updates- March 28

In his main petition, Mr. Kejriwal has three pleas: to declare the arrest as illegal; to quash the remand order; and to release him from custody. In his application for interim relief, Mr. Kejriwal had sought his release from “illegal custody”.

“This Court is further of the opinion that the present petition raises several issues of legality and validity regarding the arrest and remand of the petitioner,” the judge said.

ED response awaited

The court rejected the contention of senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Mr. Kejriwal, that no reply was required to be filed on behalf of the ED.

It would be unfair to not give an opportunity to the ED to rebut the contention raised in Mr. Kejriwal’s plea by way of a “detailed response”, the court said. “Moreso, since there may be some additional material in the possession of the investigating agency, collected during the custodial interrogation of the petitioner [Mr. Kejriwal] herein, which they may wish to place before this Court, which may be crucial to decide the present case,” the court said.

Also Read | Home-cooked food, bed: facilities CM Kejriwal is allowed in ED lock-up

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, appearing for the Central agency, said that the “bulky” petition was served upon them only on Tuesday, and three weeks’ time should be given to bring their stand on record. Mr. Singhvi submitted that there was no delay on their part, since the court registry was closed on account of Holi, and they could not have anticipated the objections.

Accused turned approvers

Mr. Singhvi also contended that the arrest of a sitting Chief Minister on the cusp of elections was against the basic structure of the Constitution. “Object of the arrest was not to find material but to disable me and my party. My prayer is, release me now,” he argued.

He highlighted that Mr. Kejriwal’s arrest was based on statements by accused persons who later turned approvers. “It is so easy to extract incrimination out of co-accused. Because the co-accused is concerned about his own selfish end... Therefore very little weight must be given to approvers... unless there is clear corroboration,” Mr. Singhvi argued.

“This creature, this species called approver, in our history whether for good or bad motives, the courts have dealt with phrases like Jaichands and Trojan horses. History always looks very harshly at these Jaichands and Trojan horses. They give daga (betrayal),” he remarked.

The case pertains to the alleged corruption and money laundering in the formulation and execution of the Delhi government’s excise policy for 2021-22, which was later scrapped. The ED has alleged that the accused were in touch with Mr. Kejriwal to formulate the excise policy that resulted in undue benefits to them, in return for which they paid kickbacks to the AAP.

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