Delhi excise policy case: SC to hear Arvind Kejriwal’s plea against arrest by ED on April 15

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on April 15 the plea of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal challenging his arrest by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) and his subsequent remand in the excise policy case. A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta will hear the matter.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Kejriwal approached the Supreme Court challenging a Delhi High Court judgement that dismissed his plea against arrest by the ED and his subsequent remand in the excise policy case. While filing an appeal in the apex court, he contended that his arrest after the announcement of the general elections was “motivated by extraneous considerations.”

The appeal stated that the sitting Chief Minister had been arrested in a “motivated manner” in the middle of the election cycle, especially after the declaration of the schedule of the Lok Sabha election in 2024. On April 9, the High Court dismissed his plea for release from jail and rejected his argument of political vendetta amid the looming Lok Sabha elections.

The High Court had said that Kejriwal’s absence from nine ED summons over six months undermined any claims of special privilege as Chief Minister, suggesting his arrest was an inevitable consequence of his non-cooperation.
Seeking urgent intervention from the Supreme Court, the Chief Minister’s appeal stated, that it is an issue of illegal curtailment of Kejriwal’s liberty.

Kejriwal’s arrest also constitutes an “unprecedented assault on the tenets of democracy” based on “free and fair elections” and “federalism,” both of which form significant constituents of the basic structure of the Constitution, the appeal further stated.

The petition, while seeking the release of the Delhi Chief Minister from jail, said the ED has “allowed its process to be used and misused by vested interests” as an instrument of oppression to not only “invade the liberty of the political opponents” in the midst of general election, 2024 of such vested interests but also “to tarnish their reputation and self-esteem.”

Such lawlessness cannot be allowed to be perpetrated under any circumstances, it said while urging the apex court to declare Kejriwal’s arrest illegal. “The petitioner’s arrest, therefore, bears serious, irreversible ramifications for the future of electoral democracy in India, for if the petitioner is not released forthwith to participate in the upcoming elections, it will establish a precedence in law for ruling parties to arrest heads of political opposition on flimsy and vexatious charges before elections, thereby eroding the core principles of our Constitution,” the petition stated.
Filing the appeal against the High Court judgement, Kejriwal said that there is no material in the possession of the Enforcement Directorate on the basis of which an inference of guilt can be made under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

“Moreover, the circumstances and chronology of events clearly show that there was no necessity to arrest the petitioner (Kejriwal),” it added. The arrest was made solely based on the subsequent, contradictory, and highly belated statements of co-accused who have now turned approvers, the appeal stated.

An appeal against the High Court order stated, “Moreover, such statements and material were in possession of the Enforcement Directorate for the last nine months and still the arrest has been made illegally in the middle of the 2024 general election.”

These statements relied upon in the grounds of arrest were recorded by the ED from December 7, 2022, until July 27, 2023, and subsequently no further material has been collected against Kejriwal, it stated. “There was no legal or factual basis for “reason to believe” or “material in possession” to consider the petitioner “guilty” for effecting an arrest. Obviously, there was no necessity for the arrest on March 21, 2024, based on this “material,” as stated in the appeal.

Also, no statement was recorded before the arrest on March 21, 2024, to seek any explanation about this old material, before deciding on the requirements of Section 19 of the PMLA, it added. Kejriwal was arrested by ED on March 21 in connection with a money laundering probe relating to alleged irregularities in the now-cancelled Delhi excise policy 2021-22.

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