AAP trap: On Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest

Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest is a reminder of the dangers of misusing enforcement agencies

March 23, 2024 12:20 am | Updated 09:47 am IST

Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raises disturbing questions about the direction of India’s democracy and federalism. The political intent of the arrest of a key leader of the Opposition, and a serving Chief Minister in the run-up to the general election, is unmistakable. The Delhi Excise policy case, in which Mr. Kejriwal has been arrested, was registered by the CBI in August 2022, based on which the ED launched its money laundering probe. Several other AAP leaders are in jail — Manish Sisodia from February 2023, and Sanjay Singh from October 2023. If the ED had evidence of corruption, it should have taken the case to trial on a war footing. Keeping the accused in jail, while investigators continue their roving expedition, should be unacceptable in a society ruled by law. When the accused are political opponents of the ruling party, the arrests will be seen as selective enforcement of the law and impairs public confidence in democracy itself. The Supreme Court of India had earlier asked the ED to provide an unbroken chain of evidence showing that ill-gotten money had flowed from the liquor lobby to Mr. Sisodia. The Court had remarked that the competence of the ED lay in bringing to the fore uninterrupted proof linking an accused with the crime proceeds. Later, the Court went on to deny bail to Mr. Sisodia.

This is not the first time a central agency has gone after a constitutional functionary. Hemant Soren resigned as Chief Minister of Jharkhand before his arrest by the ED. As things stand, the democratic politics of this country can be brought to a standstill by central agencies, even as the Court and the Election Commission of India continue to consider all this as routine law enforcement. The pretext that the law is taking its course will not be convincing to any reasonable mind. It is not a coincidence that central agencies are arresting only Opposition leaders on charges of corruption, and even those leaders who faced corruption charges are let off the moment they join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Mr. Kejriwal rose to national prominence by campaigning for an all-powerful agency that would obliterate corruption from public life. He and his band of anarchists challenged a constitutionally elected government through mobocracy, and amplified conspiracy theories such as notional loss to exchequer more than a decade ago. Mr. Kejriwal himself is now ensnared in the logic that he popularised. But two wrongs do not make a right.

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