• Sunday, May 26, 2024

INDIA

No relief for Kejriwal, India’s top court issues notice to probe agency

Kejriwal, currently held in judicial custody at Tihar Jail, has lambasted his arrest as an attack on democratic principles. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

India’s top court on Monday did not grant any relief to Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, regarding his recent arrest. Instead, the Supreme Court has asked the probe agency Enforcement Directorate (ED) to respond by April 24 to Kejriwal’s challenge against his detention, which is connected to a suspected excise policy scam.

Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, presiding over the bench, directed the issuance of a notice to the ED following Kejriwal’s appeal against an April 9 decision by the Delhi high court that supported his arrest.

The justices have scheduled the hearing for the week starting April 29. Representing Kejriwal, Senior Advocate Abhishek Singhvi raised concerns about the timing of the arrest, which coincided with the enforcement of the model code of conduct due to the upcoming general elections. Singhvi argued that this move was strategically aimed at preventing Kejriwal from participating in the election campaign.

Describing the case as “very unusual,” Singhvi emphasized the significant role of Kejriwal’s status as Chief Minister and expressed his intent to present facts that would “shock” the court’s conscience. He also mentioned the prevalence of “selective leaks,” which, he claimed, were creating misleading perceptions. Responding to these claims, Justice Khanna decided to issue the notice, saying, “Let a notice be issued.”

During the proceedings, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, representing the ED, assured that the agency would submit its response to the petition promptly. Singhvi requested an expedited date for the hearing, stressing the urgency due to the proximity of the election dates. However, Justice Khanna, while promising a quick date, declined to agree to the specific date proposed by Singhvi.

In his arguments, Singhvi highlighted that despite the filing of eight charge sheets by the CBI and ED in the excise case, none had named Kejriwal. He pointed out the discrepancy in the timeline, noting Kejriwal’s arrest in March 2024 following a series of events that began in September 2022. This included the recording of 15 statements that did not implicate Kejriwal directly.

Justice Khanna urged Singhvi to reserve his detailed arguments for the next scheduled hearing on this matter. The bench reiterated their awareness of the case details, having reviewed the submitted documents extensively. Meanwhile, the bench instructed the ED to provide their written response by April 24, with a deadline for any rejoinder set for April 27.

Previously, the Delhi high court had validated Kejriwal’s arrest on April 9, stating the legality of the action given his repeated non-compliance with summonses and refusal to cooperate with the investigation. This case revolves around alleged corrupt practices in the administration and implementation of Delhi’s excise policy for the year 2021-22, which was later rescinded.

Kejriwal, currently held in judicial custody at Tihar Jail, has lambasted his arrest as an attack on democratic principles, especially so close to the general elections. He appealed to the Supreme Court for his release, labeling the case against him as “illegal” and motivated by political reasons, with potentially grave consequences for India’s electoral democracy.

The ED is investigating allegations that a liquor policy implemented by the Delhi government in 2022, which ended its control over the sale of liquor, gave undue advantages to private retailers.

The policy was subsequently withdrawn, and the AAP government has said no evidence of wrongdoing has emerged in the investigation.

(PTI)

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