ED stance on Arvind Kejriwal bail order deplorable: Abhishek Singhvi

Delhi High Court stayed a trial court order granting bail to Kejriwal until it pronounces its verdict on the ED petition

Arvind Kejriwal in custody (file photo)
Arvind Kejriwal in custody (file photo)

NH Digital

The Delhi High Court on Friday stayed the trial court order granting bail to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in the Delhi excise policy case until it pronounces its verdict on the ED (Enforcement Directorate) petition. As a result, the chief minister is to remain in Tihar Jail for now.

The order is likely to be pronounced on 25 June. "Arguments are heard. I am reserving this order for two-three days. Till pronouncement, the operation of the impugned order shall remain stayed," the high court said.

Additional solicitor-general (ASG) S.V. Raju, representing the ED, told the high court that he was not given the "full opportunity" to argue his case. “Without going through documents filed by both sides, without giving us an opportunity, the matter is decided,” he claimed. He added that the trial court arrived on the decision based on wrong facts.

Raju stated that he was not given sufficient time to argue the case or to file written submissions, alleging that the judge was in a hurry to conduct the hearing and hurriedly disposed of the case. He said it was on record that the judge called the documents submitted "bulky" and refused to go through them.

Citing section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Raju urged the court to stay the bail order.

Terming the ED's approach as "deplorable", senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the accused cannot be kept indefinitely in jail merely for the investigating agency to find evidence. It is very unfortunate that the ASG was maligning the judge merely because an adverse order was passed.

The hearing lasted for five hours, of which the ED took 3 hours 45 minutes, and the rest was taken by Kejriwal's lawyer. Therefore, where was the question of ED being denied the opportunity to present its case, queried Singhvi.

"Leave is granted against justice Swarna Kanta Sharma's order. ASG has argued it as if justice Sharma's order is the final word. It is being considered by SC. If the arrest is bad, all other steps are irrelevant. It is the last word of SC which will come in July and not justice Sharma's," he said and emphasised that the Supreme Court has granted liberty to Kejriwal to approach the trial court for bail.

"Like Alice in Wonderland, ED has its own meaning of perversity. For them it means error is perversity and unless every argument of ED is repeated verbatim, it is perversity."

The senior advocate further said "not one paisa" was traced to Arvind Kejriwal. "For ED, Article 21 is non-existent. The liberty of a person is very, very low in the eyes of the ED, if it exists at all," he further said.

Singhvi stressed that the trial court passed a discretionary order, after taking a view on the aspects of the case and the High Court cannot interfere with the discretion exercised by the judge at the admission stage. "It's a discretionary order considering all the arguments. Your lordships may reverse it in final order. But no stay can be granted."

Singhvi said the High Court and Supreme Court were dealing with the issue of legality of the arrest, not the bail. "The Supreme Court has reserved its order on the legality of the arrest... The law is very clear on the grant of bail and cancellation/reversal of bail is different," he further said.

A vacation bench of justice Sudhir Kumar Jain passed the order while issuing notice on the petition filed by the ED challenging Thursday's order passed by the trial court granting bail to Kejriwal. The bail was halted after the ED filed an urgent petition before the Delhi chief minister was set to leave Tihar.

The high court, while temporarily suspending the bail order, indicated that a thorough examination of the ED's petition would be conducted before any further decisions are made.

Vacation judge Nyay Bindu of Rouse Avenue courts granted bail to Kejriwal on Thursday evening after having reserved the order earlier in the day, having heard the case for two days.

A few days ago, the ED had filed a supplementary chargesheet in the case naming Kejriwal as well as AAP as accused. The court on Wednesday had extended Kejriwal's judicial custody in the case to 3 July after he was produced before the court through video conference as the judicial custody granted earlier had expired.

Kejriwal was arrested on 21 May on accusations of being part of a conspiracy to launder money allegedly received as kickbacks in executing the Delhi liquor policy of 2021-22.

The Supreme Court had granted him interim bail on 10 May for a period of 21 days to enable him to campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. It, however, had barred him from visiting his office or the Delhi secretariat and signing official files unless absolutely necessary for obtaining the lieutenant-governor's approval.

Later, on 27 May, Kejriwal had moved the Supreme Court seeking extension of his interim bail by seven more days on health grounds.

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