Delhi HC seeks ED response, refuses to grant immediate relief Arvind Kejriwal

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on a petition moved by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal challenging his arrest and also challenging ED remand granted by the trial court while refusing to grant any immediate relief.

The bench of Justice Swarna Kanta Sharma stated that the respondent/ED has to be granted an opportunity to file a reply, as an opportunity for effective representation, and declining this opportunity would amount to denial of fair hearing as well as violation of one of the principles of natural justice, i.e., audi-alteram partem, which is applicable to both parties and not one. 

The court, while fixing matter for April 3, further stated that any release order from custody will amount to enlarging the accused/petitioner/ Arvind Kejriwal on bail or interim bail, as an interim measure. The writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is not a ready substitute for recourse to the remedy of bail under Section 439 of the Cr.P.C. ordinarily.

Justice Swarna Kanta Sharma further stated that This Court remains conscious of the fact that to reach a conclusion as to whether the petitioner/Arvind Kejriwal herein is entitled to immediate release or not, this Court will necessarily have to decide the issues raised in the main petition, as those issues are the edifice of arguments of the learned Senior Counsel for the petitioner seeking immediate release of the petitioner.

During the hearing, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for Arvind Kejriwal submitted that a sitting CM who was arrested one week ago during the Model Code of Conduct. The heart of democracy is a level playing field and a free and fair election: If you do something to disrupt the level playing field, you hit the heart of democracy. My prayer is to release me now because the foundation of my arrest is flawed.

Arvind Kejriwal, through plea, alleged that the DOE has, at the time of arrest, failed to establish that Petitioner is guilty of committing activities stipulated under Section 3, i.e., be it concealment, possession, acquisition, use of proceeds of crime, as much as projecting it as untainted property or claiming it to be so.

The fact that the petitioner/Kejriwal was arrested without any interrogation or questioning clearly shows that the present proceedings of arrest is premeditated and nothing but an act of political vendetta to skew the balance and level-playing field in the General Election, 2024.

Appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju sought time to file a detailed reply in the matter and alleged that they deliberately didn`t serve us a copy so that we are not prepared, You talk of a level playing field and their yardsticks are different Kejriwal was arrested on March 21 by the Enforcement Directorate in relation to the excise policy case.

According to Kejriwal`s plea, both the arrest and the remand order are illegal and he is entitled to be released from custody.

The plea stated that without there being any material in possession of the Enforcement Directorate on the basis of which the petitioner (Arvind Kejriwal), can be believed to be guilty of an offence, the petitioner is being illegally and arbitrarily arrested by ED in the evening of March 21.

The plea further stated that the provisions of PMLA are being used to persecute and destroy the very basic fabric of the democratic and federal structures of this country.

“The attempt is to decimate a political party and topple an elected government of the NCT of Delhi,” the plea stated.

The trial court on March 22, sent Arvind Kejriwal to ED remand till March 28. ED alleged that the Aam Adami Party (AAP) is the major beneficiary of the proceeds of crime generated in the alleged liquor scam.

The agency claimed that Kejriwal was directly involved in the formation of the excise policy.

“Arvind Kejriwal has also been intrinsically involved in the entire conspiracy of the Delhi liquor scam, wherein the policy was drafted and implemented in a manner wherein certain private persons were favoured and benefitted in a quid pro quo of receiving kickbacks,” the central agency said in its remand.

It also claimed that due to the actions of Arvind Kejriwal involving excise policy formulation, hatching the conspiracy of kickbacks with the South Group members, and eventually using part of the proceeds of crime generated out of this scheduled offence in the election campaign of the AAP for the Goa Assembly elections, it is clear that all these activities were not only done with his knowledge but also his active collusion.

Kejriwal was arrested by the central agency late Thursday night on charges of corruption in relation to the case. It is the first time in independent India that a serving Chief Minister has been arrested. The move came after Kejriwal skipped multiple summons by the investigation agency, nine in total, calling them “illegal”.

The case pertains to alleged irregularities and money laundering in framing and implementing the Delhi Excise Policy 2022, which was later scrapped.

While Kejriwal was not named in the FIRs registered by the ED or the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Delhi excise policy case, his name first found a mention in the ED`s chargesheet, wherein the agency claimed that he allegedly spoke to one of the main accused, Sameer Mahendru, in a video call and asked him to continue working with co-accused and AAP communications-in-charge Vijay Nair.

Nair was among the first people to be arrested by the CBI in the case, in 2022. Subsequently, former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh were arrested in connection with the case.

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