‘CMs can be arrested, the question is timing’: HC gives no interim relief to Kejriwal

Appearing for Kejriwal, senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi said even ‘a day is far too long when the arrest is illegal’.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
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The Delhi High Court has denied any interim relief to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal over his petition challenging his arrest and remand to ED custody by the trial court in the liquor policy case.

Kejriwal was arrested on March 21 from his residence, hours after the high court refused to grant him interim protection from coercive action. He was subsequently remanded to six-day custody of the Enforcement Directorate, which has alleged he is the kingpin in the liquor case.

On Wednesday, Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma issued a notice to ED on the application for interim relief as well as the main writ petition. The matter will now be heard on April 3 for final disposal. 

Kejriwal’s ED remand, granted by a Delhi district court, ends tomorrow – he is expected to be produced in court the same day. 

‘Unfair to not give chance to ED’

The court said that any order passed in the application for Kejriwal’s interim relief, pending disposal of his main petition, without calling for reply of ED, would amount to deciding the main petition itself. It said that it would be “unfair” to not give an opportunity to ED to rebut the submissions made by Kejriwal’s counsel. 

Appearing for Kejriwal today, senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi had said that even “a day is far too long when the arrest is illegal” and that the arrest was to “disable a person from any active role in the elections”.

“A sitting chief minister is arrested on the cusp of elections after the MCC…the heart of democracy is a level playing field, it means free and fair elections. If you do anything to make the level playing field uneven, then you are impinging on the basic structure of the Constitution. Of course CMs can be arrested but the question is the timing.”

The virtual hearing saw various technological disruptions, ranging from the judge being muted thrice, to Kejriwal’s lawyer Abhishek Singhvi being unable to log in due to the meeting having met its maximum capacity of 1,000 people, to ED representative ASG Raju being unable to hear the petitioner’s arguments.

Kejriwal’s lawyer said that the phrases “material in possession,” “reasons to believe,” and “guilty,” in Section 19 of the PMLA, were “vital conditions for arrest”. These three phrases go towards the point of a clear demonstration of necessity to arrest. The threshold for arrest in this section is very high, he said, due to which section 45 of the PMLA puts the threshold for bail very high.

A few other political leaders are already in jail in the same case, including former Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, and BRS leader K Kavitha. 

Responding to ED’s claim that Kejriwal had been non-cooperative, the CM’s counsel said, “Non-cooperation is one of the most abused phrases in the recent past since ED has become active. Can I say that you’re non-cooperating by not giving me a confession or disclosure so I will arrest you? That will hit Article 20 and 21 on the head.”

Meanwhile, ASG Raju asked for time to file a reply. 

When the judge said that she will issue notice on the main matter and only deal with the plea for release today, the ASG said that he had a “right to file a reply even on interim relief,” and if he was “not entitled to file a reply then there was no need to hear” him.


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