Twists and turns, Kejriwal a ‘kingpin’: Delhi CM sent to 6-day ED custody

The Delhi Chief Minister was arrested on Thursday night from his residence.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
Arvind Kejriwal

A Delhi court has sent Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to six-day Enforcement Directorate custody a day after his arrest in the liquor excise policy case. The order was passed late Friday night after a day-long hearing in the matter. 

The ED, which had sought a 10-day remand, will now produce Kejriwal in court at 2 pm on March 28. Before his arrest, the Delhi High Court had refused to grant him any interim protection from coercive action.    

In the court proceedings today, lengthy arguments were made by additional solicitor general SV Raju, representing the government and Kejriwal’s three counsels: Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Vikram Chaudhary and Ramesh Gupta. Subsequently,  Special CBI Judge Kavery Baweja of the Rouse Avenue Court reserved the order. 

The court premises remained heavily guarded during the proceedings, with several journalists and even lawyers not allowed near the court. The hearing was even delayed by a few minutes as ASG Raju could not enter the courtroom amid the chaos. 

Long after he went inside, another counsel representing the ED was heard arguing with the police, who had barricaded the area and did not even let lawyers enter.  

Kejriwal as ‘kingpin’ and angry journalists 

The arrest of the sitting-chief minister did not bring the national capital to a standstill, but it certainly led to stringent security restrictions outside the Rouse Avenue Court where Kejriwal was produced. 

Several shops lining the road to the court were asked to close, and the heavy traffic in the area meant a lot of people abandoned their vehicles and walked the last few kilometres to the court. 

All the gates of the court were guarded by groups of security personnel, with a swarm of media persons around. Inside the complex, the police guarded the courtroom, not allowing several journalists, including those from mainstream organisations such as PTI and Times of India, beyond a certain point. 

A senior journalist outside the court premises called the restrictions “unprecedented”. “But if the chief minister can get arrested, anything is possible.” Another media person said first “they came for the farmers, now they are coming for us”, and one told a police officer that “it might not be for long, but at least right now journalism is alive.”

In the courtroom, Singhvi argued that until Thursday, the ED had not disclosed that Kejriwal was being probed as an accused in the case. He emphasised that the threshold for arrest under the PMLA is “very high” and also questioned the necessity of the arrest. 

“The power of arrest is not equal to the need of arrest,” said Singhvi, terming Section 19 of the PMLA Act “draconic”, as it makes bail difficult.

The ED invoked Section 19 of the PMLA against Kejriwal, which authorises the agency to arrest an individual based on the material in their possession, and reasonable basis to suspect their involvement in a punishable offence. 

The central agency has accused Kejriwal of being the “kingpin” of the alleged scam, and said that the AAP used kickbacks received from the liquor policy scam to fund the party’s campaign for the Goa assembly elections.

Kejriwal’s counsel Vikram Chaudhuri questioned that if the ED had all the material against the AAP leader, why did it wait until the eve of the elections, after the moral code came into force, to arrest him? He emphasised the right of a politician to participate in elections. 

The ED said that Rs 45 crore received from the South Group were used by AAP to contest the Goa polls in 2021-2022, which makes Kejriwal liable. The agency also stressed upon the non-compliance of the CM in the investigation, pointing to the nine summons issued against him. 

However, Kejriwal’s counsel Chaudhary insisted that the CM had responded to all of the summons. 

Twists and turns of a Supreme Court plea

The Rouse Avenue court proceedings was not the only, or first, case relating to Kejriwal being heard today.

After failing to get the Supreme Court to give the matter an urgent hearing on Thursday night, Singhvi mentioned the matter before the Chief Justice of India on Friday morning. The CJI, however, asked him to approach the special bench in another court.

Incidentally, just before that, the same special bench had refused to consider the plea by BRS leader K Kavitha who was arrested by the ED last week in the same alleged scam. The court had said statutory remedies cannot be bypassed because a politician was involved.

It should be noted that the same bench had also denied entertaining the plea of former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren after his arrest. 

Kejriwal’s lawyer mentioned the matter before the court, and while it was set to be taken up by Justices Sanjiv Khanna, MM Sundresh and Bela M Trivedi later in the day, the counsel withdrew the plea within the next few hours. 

Singhvi said the plea was “clashing” with the ED remand. But minutes later, solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the ED, made an oral mention to “clear the air.”

Mehta said that he had given the ED officers “clear instructions” to not produce Kejriwal in the magistrate today as his petition was pending in the Supreme Court, indicating that the central agency would have waited for the outcome of the top court’s hearing. 

Meanwhile, a petition submitted in the Delhi High Court today by one Sukhbir Singh Yadav sought the removal of Kejriwal as the Chief Minister of Delhi. 

In another recent plea, Yadav had urged the election commission and ministry of home affairs to take action against opposition leaders – Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi, and Akhilesh Yadav – for allegedly “damaging the credibility of India” and “making misleading and false statements against the government”. 

Newslaundry earlier reported about a curious link between a Hyderabad firm’s electoral bonds to BJP and the Delhi liquor policy case. Read here.

Also see
article imageMetro shut, roads blocked, kin ‘isolated’: Delhi cops crush AAP protest against Kejriwal arrest
article imageAAP moves SC as ED arrests Arvind Kejriwal in liquor policy case


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