Supreme Court says BRS leader Kavitha cannot take shortcut to bail, asks her to move trial court

The Supreme Court issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on a writ petition filed by Ms. Kavitha seeking to quash her arrest in the case.

Updated - March 23, 2024 02:41 am IST

Published - March 22, 2024 12:00 pm IST - New Delhi

BRS leader K. Kavitha reached the Enforcement Directorate office after being detained in the alleged Delhi excise policy in New Delhi on March 16, 2024.

BRS leader K. Kavitha reached the Enforcement Directorate office after being detained in the alleged Delhi excise policy in New Delhi on March 16, 2024. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

The Supreme Court on March 22 refused to entertain a plea for bail by Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) MLA K. Kavitha, arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, in connection with the Delhi excise policy case.

A three-judge Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna advised Ms. Kavitha, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, to approach the trial court for bail. The Bench asked the trial court, if an application for bail is filed, to decide it expeditiously.

Also read: Arvind Kejriwal arrest updates

“Merely because she is a political person or someone who can afford to approach the Supreme Court directly does not mean she can bypass statutory routes. For bail, you have to go through the trial court,” Justice Khanna told Mr. Sibal.

The apex court issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on a writ petition filed by Ms. Kavitha seeking to quash her arrest in the case.

The Bench tagged it with other petitions challenging the larger questions regarding ED’s sweeping powers under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to raid, summon and arrest persons.

On July 27, 2022, the top court had upheld the core amendments to the Act which had enhanced ED’s powers. Multiple petitions, including one by Congress leader Karti Chidambaram, seeking a review of the 2022 verdict are pending before Justice Khanna’s Special Bench. Ms. Kavitha’s petition has been attached to this batch, which would likely be listed in July 2024.

Ms. Kavitha, daughter of former Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, was remanded in Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody till March 23 in the case.

The BRS leader has urged the court to “quash and set aside the entire action taken by the ED leading to the arrest of the petitioner as the same is wholly non-est; illegal, arbitrary, unconstitutional, contrary to the undertaking tendered before this court and also being violative of the postulates of Section 19 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 especially qua a woman.”

The 46-year-old was arrested by the federal anti-money laundering agency from her Banjara Hills residence in Hyderabad on Friday amid protests by Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) supporters.

The BRS leader has sought the quashing of the arrest memo, the arrest order dated March 15 and the remand order dated March 16 passed by a special judge in a “patently routine and mechanical manner”.

Earlier, in another petition filed in the top court, she challenged the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

On February 28, the top court had extended the protection granted to Kavitha from any coercive action in the case.

The ED had issued summons to the leader on February 21, seeking her presence on February 26. However, Kavitha had not appeared before the central probe agency.

Additional Solicitor General S. V. Raju, appearing for the ED, had told the apex court that Kavitha had been avoiding summons.

The ED has alleged that Kavitha was a part of liquor cartel ‘South Group’ which paid kickbacks of ₹100 crore to Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in return for favours under the now-scrapped excise policy for 2021-22.

Ms. Kavitha’s arguments had highlighted the restriction placed on police officers under Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure against summoning women or questioning them at any place other than their own homes.

She had argued that the ED was using the power to summon persons as an intimidation tactic. Ms. Kavitha had maintained that there was no case against her and she was implicated in the case on the basis of statements extracted out of certain persons using coercion.

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