Arvind Kejriwal moves SC | CJI agrees to consider Kejriwal’s plea for urgent listing, his lawyers hope for Monday hearing

The Delhi CM has argued that the decision to arrest him merely days before the General Election was a carefully calibrated move to create an uneven playing field in favour of the BJP

April 10, 2024 09:26 am | Updated 05:56 pm IST - New Delhi

Supporters during the AAP’s day-long ‘samuhik upvas’ (day-long fast) in protest against the arrest of party leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on April 7, 2024.

Supporters during the AAP’s day-long ‘samuhik upvas’ (day-long fast) in protest against the arrest of party leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on April 7, 2024. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud on Wednesday agreed to “immediately look at” the email sent by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s lawyers for an urgent hearing of his petition seeking quashing of his arrest in a Delhi excise policy-linked money laundering case.

The Chief Minister’s lawyers said the petition would now “most likely” be listed for hearing on Monday (April 15). April 11 and April 12 are court holidays.

Mr. Kejriwal appealed to the Supreme Court a day after the Delhi High Court refused to quash his arrest in the liquor policy case.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and Shadan Farasat, appearing for Mr. Kejriwal, made the oral mentioning before the CJI. Mr. Singhvi said Mr. Kejriwal’s arrest was made based on “unreliable documents” suppressed from him.

“I have sent an email for urgent listing. This is the arrest of a Chief Minister,” he added.

“I will immediately look at it. I make sure that all emails are looked at,” Chief Justice Chandrachud replied.

On April 9, the Delhi High Court had found nothing illegal about the Chief Minister’s arrest. A Single Judge Bench of Justice Swarna Kanta based its order on the prima facie finding that there was adequate material, including statements of approvers, involvement of middlemen, and references that cash was handed over for expenditure in the Goa elections.

Mr. Kejriwal has argued that the decision to swoop in and arrest him on March 21, merely days before the General Election, was a carefully calibrated move to create an uneven playing field in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

He contended that his arrest and the case against the excise policy was an instance of a Central agency, the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) in this case, being misused as a weapon to crush the Opposition.

Mr. Kejriwal said his name did not figure as a suspect in the prosecution’s complaints, even in the five supplementary ones, filed by the ED.

Also read:INDIA bloc leaders reach out to EC, highlight ‘misuse’ of Central agencies

The Chief Minister said the summons issued by the ED on earlier occasions were vague in nature. Their ambiguity indicated a roving enquiry intent on muzzling political dissent. He said his continued incarceration was a cock-a-snook at the federal system of governance.

Tuesday had seen the ED counter in the High Court that the arrest and subsequent remand of Mr. Kejriwal were natural outcomes of painstaking collection of evidence.

The agency, represented by Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, had informed the High Court that the procedure of arrest was correctly followed. Mr. Kejriwal was furnished with the grounds of his arrest in writing.

The agency had termed Mr. Kejriwal the kingpin and key conspirator of the Delhi excise “scam”.

The ED claimed he was involved in the conspiracy of formulation of the excise policy, and also engaged in demanding kickbacks from liquor businessmen in exchange of granting favours in the policy.

The agency argued that Mr. Kejriwal was involved in the use of proceeds of crime generated in the Goa election campaign of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). He was the national convenor of the party and its “ultimate decision-maker”.

The ED argued that Vijay Nair, on behalf of Mr. Kejriwal and the AAP, received kickbacks to the tune of ₹100 crore from the ‘South Group’.

The ‘South Group’ was represented by Abhishek Boinpally, Arun Pillai and Buchi Babu. Mr. Boinpally facilitated the transfer of money in conspiracy with Vijay Nair and his associate Dinesh Arora, the ED had argued in the High Court.

The Central agency said the ‘South Group’ members had got control of the wholesaler business M/s Indo Spirits, and even retail zones, got the business of Pernod Ricard, and even got the L1 license granted despite multiple complaints and being in violation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.

According to the investigation carried out so far, the proceeds of the crime is about ₹45 crore, which was part of the bribe received from the ‘South Group’. The money was used in the AAP’s election campaign in Goa in 2021-22.

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