SC to hear Kejriwal plea against HC order upholding his arrest by ED

| | New Delhi
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SC to hear Kejriwal plea against HC order upholding his arrest by ED

Sunday, 14 April 2024 | Staff Reporter | New Delhi

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s plea against a High Court order that has upheld his arrest in a money-laundering case stemming from the alleged excise policy scam.

According to the cause list uploaded on the apex court’s website, a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta will hear on April 15 Kejriwal’s petition challenging the Delhi High Court’s April 9 order.

In a massive blow to the chief minister, the high court has upheld his arrest in the money-laundering case, saying the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was left with “little option” after he skipped repeated summonses and refused to join the investigation.

The high court has dismissed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader’s petition challenging his arrest by the ED and subsequent remand in the federal agency’s custody.

The matter pertains to alleged corruption and money laundering in the formulation and execution of the Delhi government’s excise policy for 2021-22 that was later scrapped.

Kejriwal was arrested by the ED on March 21, hours after the high court refused to grant him protection from coercive action by the federal anti-money laundering agency.

He is in judicial custody till April 15 and is currently lodged in Tihar Jail.

Kejriwal has described his arrest by the ED ahead of the general election as an “unprecedented assault on the tenets of democracy” and urged the apex court to release him by declaring the case against him as “illegal”.

In the appeal filed in the top court, Kejriwal has said his arrest on March 21 after the announcement of the Lok Sabha polls was “obviously motivated by extraneous considerations”.

“The intervention of this court is urgently warranted, as over and above the issue of illegal curtailment of liberty, the petitioner’s arrest also constitutes an unprecedented assault on the tenets of democracy, free-and-fair elections and federalism, both of which form significant constituents of the basic structure of the Constitution,” the plea has said.

The arrest was made solely relying on subsequent, contradictory and highly-belated statements of the co-accused who have now turned approvers, it has said.

Moreover, such statements and material were in possession of the ED for nine months and still the arrest was made illegally days before the general election, Kejriwal has said in his plea.

“The petitioner’s arrest bears serious, irreversible ramifications for the future of electoral democracy in India and if he 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 plea has said.

Assailing the high court order, it has said the judgment failed to appreciate that statements made before a probe agency are not held to be the gospel truth and can always be doubted by the courts.

“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 elections 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,” the plea in the top court has said.

The high court had cited the ED’s claim that Kejriwal conspired and was actively involved in the use and concealment of the proceeds of crime to reject his petition against his arrest.

 It had chastised the AAP leader, alleged to have been involved in money laundering in his “personal capacity” and in his capacity as the national convenor of a political party, for questioning the timing of his arrest and underlined that an investigation against the “classes and masses” cannot be different.

It had also rebuked Kejriwal for “casting aspersions” on the judicial process with his claim about an approver making donations to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre through electoral bonds, saying the law relating to approvers is more than 100 years old and it was not enacted to implicate him.

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