SC denies interim relief to Kejriwal, asks ED to respond on his arrest

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi said Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest was timed to prevent the Aam Aadmi Party convener from campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections

Updated - April 16, 2024 09:27 am IST

Published - April 15, 2024 03:16 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Admi Party, leaves in a car after a court extended his custody for four more days, in New Delhi on March 28, 2024.

Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Admi Party, leaves in a car after a court extended his custody for four more days, in New Delhi on March 28, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

The Supreme Court sought a response from the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) on Monday to a petition by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to quash his arrest in the Delhi Excise policy case, but did not relent to order his “interim release” or list the case on April 19.

Instead, a Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta scheduled the case for the week commencing on April 29, urging Mr. Kejriwal’s lawyers to keep the powder dry till the next hearing.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and advocate Shadan Farasat urged the court for an “extraordinarily short date”, possibly Friday (April 19).

Mr. Singhvi pleaded with the court to consider the “timing of the Chief Minister’s arrest” by the ED. He said the arrest was timed to prevent the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener from campaigning for the Lok Sabha election.

The senior advocate said he had facts which would “shock the conscience of the court”.

Mr. Singhvi said the Delhi Excise policy case was of September 2022. There was a First Information Report and an Enforcement Case Information Report. There were eight charge sheets. Fifteen statements had been recorded in the case so far.

“Mr. Kejriwal’s name does not figure in any of these documents,” he submitted.

But Justice Khanna drily responded that the lawyer should “reserve his arguments for the next date of hearing”.

‘Selective leaks’

Mr. Singhvi said there had been a lot of “selective leaks all over the place giving everybody a wrong impression” about the case of Mr. Kejriwal.

“I am not aware of any selective leaks,” Justice Sanjiv Khanna responded.

Justice Khanna said it was not possible for the court to give a date before the week commencing on April 29.

“We have given you a reasonable date… We have given you a short date. In no other case have we given such an early date when we could have given you a longer one,” Justice Khanna,” the judge told Mr. Singhvi

‘Very unusual case’

The senior lawyer underscored that the case was a very unusual one, and not solely as Mr. Kejriwal was the Chief Minister.

The court’s notice was accepted on behalf of the ED by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, who had appeared on caveat.

Also Read | Kejriwal the ‘kingpin’, ‘key conspirator’ in Delhi Excise policy case: ED

The court asked the ED to file its response by April 24. Mr. Kejriwal has to file his rejoinder to the ED’s reply by April 26.

Mr. Kejriwal had moved the Supreme Court after the Delhi High Court had in its order in April 9 found nothing illegal about the Chief Minister’s arrest. A Single Judge Bench of Justice Swarna Kanta had 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 Goa elections.

Mr. Kejriwal had argued that the decision to swoop in and arrest him on March 21, merely days before the general elections, was an instance of ED being misused as a weapon to crush the Opposition and the federal system of governance.

The ED had countered in the High Court that the arrest and subsequent remand of Mr. Kejriwal were natural outcomes of painstaking collection of evidence. The agency 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 had claimed he was involved in the conspiracy of formulation of the excise policy and also engaged in the demanding kickbacks from liquor businessmen in exchange of favours granting 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 AAP. He was the party’s national convener and its “ultimate decision-maker”.

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