Arvind Kejriwal sent to ED custody till March 28

Seeking 10-day custody of Delhi CM, agency describes him as ‘kingpin’ of the excise policy ‘scam’; AAP workers protest across States; Oppn. delegation approaches EC over his arrest

March 22, 2024 08:45 pm | Updated 11:42 pm IST - New Delhi

Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal is escorted out of the Rouse Avenue Court in New Delhi on March 22, 2024.

Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal is escorted out of the Rouse Avenue Court in New Delhi on March 22, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

A court here on Friday remanded Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener Arvind Kejriwal in Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody till March 28, a day after the Central agency arrested him in connection with an excise policy-linked money laundering case.

Special Judge (Prevention of Corruption Act) Kaveri Baweja of the Rouse Avenue Courts asked for Mr. Kejriwal to be produced before her on March 28 at 2 p.m. The six-day remand came on an ED plea seeking his 10-day custody in the case.

Also read | The roller-coaster ride of the Kejriwal case in the Supreme Court

The ED termed Mr. Kejriwal as “kingpin” of the Delhi excise policy “scam”, arguing before the court that he was directly involved in policy formulation and handling the proceeds of crime as well.

“As the Chief Minister of the Delhi government which is run by the AAP, Arvind Kejriwal was the key conspirator in the excise policy scam,” submitted Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) S.V. Raju, representing the ED, accusing the Delhi CM of wilfully disobeying the summonses issued to him by the Central agency.

“The liquor policy was formed so that it would enable the taking of bribes,” Mr. Raju said, claiming that Mr. Kejriwal directly demanded kickbacks from a ‘South Group’ of liquor businessmen which later secured licences in Delhi.

The ED said that the proceeds of crime could go much beyond the ₹100 crore estimated earlier and exceed ₹600 crore.

Lawyers representing Mr. Kejriwal alleged that the Central agency’s allegations are a cut-paste job and questioned the timing of his arrest.

“If the ED had material against him since it has first summoned him in 2023... why did the agency wait this long to arrest him just on the eve of Lok Sabha elections?” said senior advocate Vikram Chaudhuri, demanding that the ED remove its “mask” and reveal whom it actually represents.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, also appearing for Mr. Kejriwal, opposed the ED’s remand plea and said that the agency had to prove in court the necessity to arrest Mr. Kejriwal. “Even before the first vote is cast, the results are there… you are creating a non-level playing field,” he argued.

Earlier, failing to secure a late-night hearing on Thursday, AAP’s legal team led by Mr. Singhvi had rushed to the Supreme Court on Friday morning and requested Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud for an urgent hearing. After a series of twists and turns in court, the petition was withdrawn from the top court shortly after judges agreed to reconvene a Special Bench.

Mr. Singhvi, for Mr. Kejriwal, requested the Justice Sanjiv Khanna-led Special Bench, that had earlier in the day refused a petition filed by Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) MLC K. Kavitha to quash her recent arrest by the ED in the same excise policy case, to allow him to try his luck before the Rouse Avenue magistrate instead. The court permitted him to withdraw the petition.

Watch | Kejriwal’s arrest sparks protests, Opposition strongly backs Delhi CM

Delhi Cabinet Ministers Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj were detained on Friday as AAP leaders and workers hit the streets in the national capital as well as in several States on Friday in protest against their national convener’s arrest.

A delegation of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) also submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission alleging “unrelenting, blatant and illegal deployment of Central agencies” by the ruling BJP to stifle the Opposition parties.

The issues which may eventually come up in the case of Mr. Kejriwal, the first Chief Minister to be arrested while in office, would include whether he could continue to be in the post behind bars.

A petition filed in the Delhi High Court on Friday sought his removal from the post, arguing that “sitting in jail, the Chief Minister is incapable of transacting any business that the law enjoins upon him”.

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