Kejriwal gets no interim relief against ED arrest, custody from Delhi HC; matter to be heard on April 3

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused interim relief to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in an excise policy case, and is currently in its custody.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma has given the ED time till April 2 to file its reply to Kejriwal’s interim application seeking immediate release from ED custody and even on the main petition, issued notice to the probe agency.

The matter will be heard next on April 3.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo, who was sent to the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) custody till March 28, moved the high court against his arrest by the agency and the remand order passed by a trial court in connection with the excise policy case.

On Wednesday, he argued that the object of his arrest was not to find material but to disable him and his party, and sought immediate release.

Appearing for Kejriwal, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi urged the high court to order his release on Wednesday since his ED custody ends on Thursday.

“Non-cooperation is one of the most abused phrases in the recent past since the ED has been active,” he said.

He also contended that his client’s (Kejriwal) arrest on the cusp of elections was against the basic structure of the Constitution. He claimed that there was no necessity to arrest Kejriwal as mandated under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Justice Sharma, who orally said she would issue a notice on the petition and grant time to the ED to file a reply to it, said she would pass an order in the matter and upload it later in the day.

Meanwhile, Singhvi urged the court to grant Kejriwal interim relief by ordering his release.

Taking objection to Singhvi’s prayer for an early hearing of the main petition, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, appearing for the ED, said that the voluminous petition was served upon them only on Tuesday, and three weeks’ time should be given to bring their stand on record.

For interim relief as well, appropriate time should be given to respond, he said.

Singhvi also argued that the challenge is to the foundation of arrest and there are several “glaring issues” that need immediate decision by the high court either way.

“Democracy itself is involved. Basic structure is involved. Level playing field is involved. Even an hour spent in custody is far too long if arrest is illegal,” he said.

As Singhvi ended his submissions, he said that the entirety of the argument is that the arrest is illegal.

“In either event, in interim or final prayer, the entire case depends on two things, what the ED has already spoken. ED has already spoken on most detailed grounds of arrest.”

As during all the past hearings and even on Wednesday, at least three advocates have appeared for Kejriwal, the ASG said there can’t be more than one lawyer.

“If many lawyers appear for you, I’ll also request three lawyers to appear for ED. Let it be a level playing field,” he said.

Kejriwal’s plea contends that his arrest and the remand order passed by a trial court were illegal and that he was entitled to be released from custody immediately. The ED has alleged that the Aam Adami Party (AAP) is the major beneficiary of the proceeds of crime generated in the alleged liquor scam.

It termed him the “kingpin and key conspirator” in the excise policy case in collusion with AAP ministers, leaders, and other persons.

Kejriwal has been alleged to have been directly involved in the conspiracy of formulation of the excise policy to “favour certain persons” and also involved in the “demanding kickbacks from liquor businessmen” in exchange for favours granted in the said policy, the probe agency claimed.

The policy in question was being drafted considering the favours to be granted to the ‘South Group’ and was formed in collusion with AAP leader Vijay Nair, then Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, and members-representatives of the ‘South Group’.

“Therefore, not only the AAP but Arvind Kejriwal shall be deemed to be guilty of offences punishable under Section 4 of PMLA and shall be liable to be prosecuted and punished as provided u/s 70 of PMLA,” the agency said.


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