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  India   Politics  04 Apr 2024  Kejriwal questions timing of arrest before HC

Kejriwal questions timing of arrest before HC

Published : Apr 4, 2024, 1:19 am IST
Updated : Apr 4, 2024, 1:19 am IST

AAP calls for nationwide fast on April 7 at Jantar Mantar against party chief’s arrest

Arvind Kejriwal. (AP)
 Arvind Kejriwal. (AP)

New Delhi: As AAP MP Sanjay Singh was released on bail after remaining in Tihar Jail for about six months in the excise policy-linked money laundering case, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday questioned the “timing” of his arrest by the ED before the Delhi high court and said it was in contravention of the basic structure of the Constitution, including free and fair elections and a level playing field.

“This case reeks of timing issues which ensures that Mr Kejriwal is unable to participate in democratic activity and to try to disintegrate the AAP before the first vote is cast,” the Delhi CM’s lawyer Abhishek “Manu” Singhvi told high court judge Swarana Kanta Sharma, who has reserved her judgment on the matter.

During the arguments, additional solicitor-general S.V. Raju, representing the ED, issued a strong rejoinder to arguments about the timing of Mr Kejriwal’s arrest, declaring “criminals are supposed to be arrested and put in jail”. “Undertrial prisoners have no right to say, ‘we will commit a crime and we will not be arrested because elections are here’. This is completely ridiculous,” he said.

Mr Raju said that it is “beyond any doubt” that the scam has taken place and that Mr Kejriwal has been arrested in a “dual capacity” -- individually as well as in his role as the convenor of the AAP. He said the offence of money-laundering was prima facie made out, and at present the investigation against the petitioner was at a nascent stage.

Mr Raju argued that the petition has only assailed the first remand order passed against the petitioner, which sent him to the agency’s custody till March 28, and not the subsequent orders. The ED had arrested Mr Kejriwal on March 21 after the high court refused to grant him protection from coercive action by the anti-money laundering agency. Mr Kejriwal was sent to judicial custody in the case on April 1 after he was produced in the trial court after the expiry of ED custody.

Earlier in the day, the AAP called for a nationwide collective fast on April 7 at Jantar Mantar against Mr Kejriwal’s arrest. Delhi minister Gopal Rai said: “Delhi government ministers, AAP MPs, MLAs, councillors and office-bearers will hold a fast at Jantar Mantar on Sunday. This will be an open event and student organisations, farmer bodies, traders can come and participate in it… If you are against the arrest of the Delhi CM, you can hold the collective fast anywhere at home, in your city, anywhere on April 7.”

Defending the ED’s actions, Mr Raju told the high court that the AAP supremo was the “kingpin of the liquor policy scam” and a “key conspirator” guilty of the offence of money-laundering. The investigating agency also stated that Mr Kejriwal had waived his right to question his arrest when he did not oppose custody before the trial court.

Countering the probe agency, Mr Singhvi said: “The ED says because the accused said he is not opposing custody, his petition is infructuous. This is unheard of. I had argued that case one week ago. So, the accused is supposed to have given up?”

Mr Singhvi argued that the ED “does not have any evidence against Mr Kejriwal”. “While arresting Mr Kejriwal, no attempt was made to take his statement at home... The ED should have done this before arresting him,” he said.

“A ‘level playing field’ (before an election) is not just a phrase. It is part of 'free and fair elections’ which is part of a democratic structure. This case reeks of timing issues,” Mr Singhvi said. “What is this urgency? I am not talking about politics... I am talking about the law,” he continued, arguing the arrest was meant to “demolish the AAP before the first vote is cast.”

Mr Singhvi also questioned the ED over the issue of multiple summons to the chief minister, particularly after the AAP leader had moved the court to challenge the agency's call. “My not responding to summons is a nice point of prejudice... it is a red herring,” he said, referring to the nine summons sent by the ED demanding that Mr Kejriwal join the investigation. “Was there a possibility of Mr Kejriwal fleeing? Did he try to influence any witness in one-and-a half years? Did he refuse to be questioned?” the senior advocate asked.

Mr Singhvi also referred to the clutch of statements against the Delhi CM. “ first statements there will be nothing against me. Then some are arrested and, for first time, they give a statement against me and get bail without objection. Then they get pardon and become approver,” he said, “It's a completely biased approach. It’s not the way criminal law can be applied.”



Tags: arvind kejriwal, sanjay singh, tihar jail, aam aadmi party
Location: India, Delhi