'Why have I been arrested?' Arvind Kejriwal argues his own case in court

A Delhi court has extended ED custody of Kejriwal by four days until 1 April, though the ED had sought seven days

Arvind Kejriwal emerges from the Rouse Avenue Court (photo: PTI)
Arvind Kejriwal emerges from the Rouse Avenue Court (photo: PTI)

Ashlin Mathew

A visibly combative Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday argued his own case in Delhi’s Rouse Avenue district court, where he alleged that the "real scam" was the ED running an extortion racket in the name of an investigation. The jailed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi chief minister was produced in court at the end of the Enforcement Directorate's seven-day custody period.

Special judge Kaveri Baweja extended ED custody of Kejriwal for four days until 1 April, though the ED had sought seven days. He will now be produced in court on 1 April at 11.30 am.

Kejriwal was arrested on 21 March and subsequently remanded to ED custody until 28 March by a New Delhi court in a Delhi excise policy-linked money laundering case.

The ED argued that Kejriwal has been deliberately non-cooperative, and that his counsel did not share his income tax details. The agency also said Kejriwal will have to be confronted with the other accused of the Delhi liquor case.

Following the ED’s argument, Kejriwal began his arguments, which was opposed by the ED, who stated that Kejriwal was supposed to be represented by his lawyers. However, Kejriwal continued and underscored that the case in which he has been arrested is two years old, and so far, there is no evidence against him.

"I was arrested... but no court has proved me guilty. The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) has filed 31,000 pages and ED filed 25,000 pages. Even if you read them together, the question remains... why have I been arrested?" Kejriwal asked the court.

Addressing the courtroom, Kejriwal accused the ruling BJP at the Centre of trying to "crush" his party. He asserted that the ED was being used by the BJP to target political rivals ahead of elections. He pointed out that his name only figured four times in those tens of thousands of pages, and that one of those four mentions was of C. Arvind, not Arvind Kejriwal.

“C. Arvind has said some 'excise documents' were given by him in my presence. A lot of people come to meet me and talk to each other. Is a statement like this enough to arrest a sitting chief minister?" he asked specifically.

C. Arvind was ex-deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia's secretary, and he had informed the authorities that Sisodia had handed over "some documents". Sisodia had been arrested in this case in February.  

Kejriwal claimed in court that the statements of approvers, or government witnesses, who had earlier been arrested in this case, had been coerced to accuse him. “The ED had only one mission, to trap me. Three statements were given by one witness, but the court listened to only those who had accused me. Why? This is not right,” he said.

Another witness Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, he said, had given six statements that did not name the chief minister. “He had come to meet me for land to establish a family trust. I told him that land is being controlled by the LG (lieutenant-governor). Reddy’s seventh statement named me. His son was released after they changed their statement about me,” said Kejriwal.

Referring to a third witness, Sarath Chandra Reddy, Kejriwal said he had donated Rs 55 crore to the BJP. "Sarath Reddy said he met me with Vijay Nair. Where is the money? I have proof that the ED is running an extortion racket," contended Kejriwal, stating that he was opposing ED’s request for a remand.

Countering all of these accusations, additional solicitor-general S.V. Raju, appearing for the ED, questioned how Kejriwal would know what documents the ED possessed. “He is playing to the gallery. This is all a figment of his imagination. We have material to show Kejriwal demanded Rs 100 crore in kickbacks. The kickbacks AAP received were used in the Goa elections. We have statements and documents to show money came through hawala networks,” Raju claimed, adding that Kejriwal's statements had been recorded, but he gave evasive replies.

The ASG submitted that Kejriwal was refusing to share passwords of his accounts with the agency, so they did not have access to his digital data. “If he does not, we will have to break open the passwords. He is deliberately not cooperating, and not giving us the ITRs," he said.

Countering Kejriwal’s claim about the accused donating money to the BJP, the ASG claimed that the money they say came to the BJP has nothing to do with the liquor scam. “There is no quid pro quo. The CM is not above the law. He is an ordinary man,” said the ASG.

Appearing for Kejriwal, senior advocate Ramesh Gupta requested to speak, which was objected to by the ASG, with the court observing that Kejriwal had already spoken. He reiterated that he had a few more submissions to make. “I have a right to speak. How can I not be allowed to speak? I will speak for one hour,” said Gupta. The court then asked him to calm down.

“There are the details that we have shown about the electoral bonds given to BJP, how is that not related to this case? The court should reflect on that and pass orders for investigating that aspect,” said Gupta.

The judge responded stating that the ED had given the remand application and whether remand was merited or not for her to decide. Gupta said, “We are saying we are ready to cooperate, but we are not conceding on grounds.”

The Delhi High Court had on Wednesday rejected Kejriwal’s interim plea to be released from ED custody. A bench of justice Swarna Kanta Sharma had stated that the ED had to be given a chance to respond for effective representation, and declining this opportunity would amount to denial of fair hearing as well as violate the principles of natural justice. The court fixed the matter for 3 April.

What is the Delhi liquor policy scam?

In November 2020, the AAP government had implemented a new liquor policy in the capital. On 8 July 2022, the chief secretary of Delhi stated that there had been gross violations and undue benefits had been granted to those who obtained liquor licences.

On 22 July 2022, Delhi lieutenant-governor V.K. Saxena recommended a CBI probe into these irregularities. Nine days later, on 31 July, the AAP government withdrew the 2021-22 excise policy.

Former Delhi Congress president Chaudhary Anil Kumar had also filed a complaint with then Delhi police commissioner Rakesh Asthana, stating that it wanted an investigation in the multi-crore scam.

The ED’s case is that the now-scrapped liquor policy provided high profit margin of 185 per cent for retailers and 12 per cent for wholesalers. Of which six per cent — over Rs 600 crore — was paid as bribe, and the money allegedly used to fund the AAP's poll campaigns.

The ED has named the chief minister as a key conspirator in this case. All the other arrested — Sisodia, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, and former Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain — have denied the charges.

On 15 March, the ED also arrested K. Kavitha, daughter of Bharat Rashtra Samiti leader and former Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, in connection with this case.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

Published: 28 Mar 2024, 7:18 PM