Excise policy case: Delhi HC dismisses Kejriwal's plea challenging his arrest

AAP says Kejriwal will move the Supreme Court against his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate

AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal leaves Rouse Avenue Court in New Delhi on 9 April (photo: PTI)
AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal leaves Rouse Avenue Court in New Delhi on 9 April (photo: PTI)

NH Digital

In a major setback for chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi High Court on Tuesday, 9 April, dismissed the CM's petition challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the excise policy case.

The HC said Kejriwal's arrest was not in contravention of law and remand can't be termed "illegal".

Failing to get any reprieve from the Delhi High Court, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said Kejriwal will move the Supreme Court against his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate, and maintained the excise police case was the "biggest political conspiracy of the country" to finish the party.

Senior AAP leader and Delhi Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj said at a press conference, "We respect the institution of the high court but we respectfully submit that we do not agree with its order and will move the Supreme Court against it."

The ED had arrested Kejriwal on 21 March and on the next day, Delhi's Rouse Avenue Court remanded him to the ED's custody. On 1 April, he was sent to the judicial custody till 15 April.

The bench of justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said the material collected by the ED “reveals Arvind Kejriwal conspired and was actively involved in use and concealment of proceeds of crime”.

In its order, the high court observed that the petition challenged the arrest and said it was in violation of Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).

The high court added, “The ED case also reveals that he was involved in his personal capacity as well as convenor of AAP". The court highlighted that the ED had mentioned that the "material included statements of hawala dealers, a member of AAP etc". The names are not known.

The court also noted the ED's submission of statements by approvers (accused turned government witnesses) and an AAP Goa candidate claiming he had been paid with the alleged kickbacks.

The court said the ED had submitted material to suggest that the chief minister was involved in demanding alleged kickbacks of ₹100 crore, some of which was used to fund campaign expenses for the 2022 Goa election.

Appearing for Kejriwal, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi questioned the timing of the arrest that came just ahead of Lok Sabha Elections 2024. However, the court noted, “The petitioner has been arrested in a money laundering case and the court has to examine his arrest and remand as per law, irrespective of the timing of elections.”

"'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," said Singhvi.

Singhvi said statements of accused-turned-approvers saying criminal law was being ‘turned on its head’.

“First, in several statements, there will be nothing against me – Raghav Magunta, Sarath Reddy and Magunta Reddy,” Singhvi had said, referring to three approvers in the case.

"Step 2, some of them are arrested. Step 3, the first time they give statements against me. Step 4, they are given bail without any objection. Then they get pardoned and approvership."

“Step 5 is unique, one of them is a candidate from the ruling party in the current elections. That is Magunta Reddy and the second one is shown to have purchased (electoral) bonds, that is Sarath Reddy. It is a completely biased approach. It is not the way criminal law can be applied.”

After hearing Singhvi, the court highlighted that these matters would be addressed during the trial.

“Who gives tickets for contesting election or who purchases electoral bonds is not the concern of the court,” said justice Sharma.

The Delhi High Court, though, noted that Mr Kejriwal would have an opportunity to inspect and question all such documents, but at "the appropriate stage". "... this is not that stage," it said.

With inputs from agencies

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