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Delhi High Court Has Reserved its Verdict On Arvind Kejriwal Plea Challenging His Arrest by ED In Liquor Policy Case

The Delhi High Court has reserved its verdict on the plea filed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the money laundering case related to the alleged liquor policy scam.

Kejriwal, currently in judicial custody, was arrested on March 21. He was initially remanded to six days of ED custody, which was extended by four more days. Subsequently, on April 1, he was remanded to judicial custody until April 15.

Earlier, Justice Sharma had denied interim relief to Kejriwal and only issued a notice on his plea challenging the arrest, as well as his interim application seeking immediate release.

In response to the petition, the ED has labeled Kejriwal as the “kingpin” and the main conspirator of the excise scam. The agency alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was the major beneficiary of the proceeds from the Delhi Liquor Scam. The ED stated, “The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is the major beneficiary of the proceeds of crime generated in the Delhi Liquor Scam. Shri Arvind Kejriwal was and is not only the brain behind the AAP but also controls its major activities. He was also one of the founding members and was also involved in the decision-making of the policy as evident from the statements of the witnesses.”

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju told the Court that the investigation concerning the sitting CM is at a nascent stage. He also pointed out that Kejriwal has not challenged the latest order remanding him to 15 days of judicial custody. “He has challenged the first remand order. Please look at the remand order of 26 March. Today we are on April 3. On 28 March, the second remand order is passed. That has not been challenged. The third remand order of judicial custody has not been challenged. So today his custody isn’t pursuant to arrest or the first remand order, it’s pursuant to the April 1 order which has not been challenged.”

Raju also raised the question of whether Kejriwal can challenge his remand since he did not oppose it. “He voluntarily accepts, please remand me further. Can he challenge the remand order? Or is it barred by waiver? They are blowing hot and cold at the same time. You can’t challenge the remand order and say please pass the order and accept it. They have not challenged the latest orders pursuant to which he is in custody. Thus, custody can’t be said to be illegal.”

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Kejriwal, argued that the central probe agency did not comply with Section 50 PMLA which empowers it to issue summons, collect evidence, etc. Singhvi contended, “It is clear that section 50 involves an inquiry. Because it’s an inquiry which enables ED to make up its mind about arrest and prosecution. No attempt is made to record my section 50 even at my residence.”

Pointing to the remand application, he added, “ED wants to ‘find out’ the role of the Chief Minister. Surely that’s not a ground for today’s arrest… There has to be a specific role of the petitioner, even for the company, which I’m denying.”

On the other hand, the ASG argued, “The fact that a PMLA offence has taken place is clear and beyond any doubt. Because as far as the first Police Custody and subsequent Police Custody is concerned, the court has taken cognizance… Categorical finding that there is money laundering. Cognizance of the offence of money laundering. Nobody has challenged the order.”

Singhvi alleged that the ED coerced the approvers Raghav Magunta, Sarath Reddy, and Magunta Reddy to make statements against Kejriwal. He further claimed that two approvers even have links with the ruling party. “First in several statements there will be nothing against me. Step 2, some of them arrested. Step 3, the first time they give a statement against me. Step 4, they are given bail without any objection.

“they get pardon and approvership. Five is unique, one of them is a candidate from the ruling party in the current elections. That is Magunta Reddy and the second one is shown to have purchased bonds, that is Sarath Reddy…You’re given absolute bail hardly ten days later. This is making a joke of accused rights and fair play. His interim bail is made absolute and pardon happens. Then comes the second man, Magunta’s father. He makes the statement obviously to secure bail for his son. This statement is contrary to his earlier statements. This person, the father, has now joined the alliance of the ruling party.”

Singhvi added that the initial statements that did not implicate Kejriwal are not even put on record by the ED. “These statements are kept in unrelied. Why should the court not see it? Is it fair? What canon of fairness are you carrying ED? Out of 13 statements by this Reddy, he says nothing in 11 statements. The judge will go by one statement?”

He also questioned the necessity of the arrest amid the upcoming general elections. “The test is not can arrest. It is to demonstrate the necessity to arrest. The ‘should arrest’ test. The necessity to arrest immediately before elections… the only object is to insult, humiliate, and disable… So that the petitioner is unable to participate in the election process and to try to demolish the party before the first vote is cast. The timing reeks of a basic structure issue, free and fair election issue, and a democracy issue. What is this urgency or necessity?”

Singhvi further said Kejriwal cannot be considered a flight risk, given his deep roots in society.

Responding to this, the ASG said, “Supposing a political person commits murder two days before elections. This means he can’t be arrested? Basic structure comes into play? Criminals are supposed to be arrested and put in jail. In such cases, there is no infringement of the basic structure.”

The ASG further argued that no calculation was done as to why a 5 percent profit was made 12 percent in the new policy. “The only inference is that it was done so that 7 percent of the portion is used for giving kickbacks. The fact that there is a scam is beyond doubt today. However much hue and cry you make, it’s a fact that a scam was there… Finding the actual proceeds of crime is irrelevant if we make out a case that you were involved in money laundering.”

The ASG said evidence shows that kickbacks were used for the election campaign of AAP in Goa. The beneficiary was AAP. The offence is committed by AAP. “AAP is a company under section 70 of PMLA. You may not be a company, but you will be deemed to be a company if you’re an association of individuals. AAP is an association of individuals. Now please come to RPA. I’ve established that AAP is a company. We have established that he was in charge and responsible for the affairs of AAP. Kejriwal was responsible for the affairs of AAP at the relevant time when kickbacks were taken and money laundering was done.”

About the case background: Kejriwal had ignored nine summons issued by the ED.

AAP leaders Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh are also accused in the case and are currently in judicial custody. Following his arrest, Kejriwal had initially moved an urgent petition before the Supreme Court, which was later withdrawn. He has also previously challenged the ED’s summons in the Delhi High Court and filed an application seeking interim protection, with the matter set for hearing on April 22.

The ED has alleged that Kejriwal is the “kingpin” of the Delhi excise scam, involved in using proceeds of crime amounting to over Rs. 100 crores. The agency claims that the excise policy was part of a conspiracy to provide a 12 percent profit to certain private companies, and that this was coordinated by Vijay Nair and others. Nair allegedly acted on behalf of Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, according to the ED.

Also read: Arvind Kejriwal Faces Judicial Custody in Money Laundering Case until April 15

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