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Rediff.com  » News » HC upholds Kejriwal's arrest, says law applies equally to all

HC upholds Kejriwal's arrest, says law applies equally to all

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
Last updated on: April 09, 2024 23:24 IST
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In a massive blow to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Delhi high court on Tuesday upheld his arrest in a money laundering case stemming from the alleged excise scam, saying the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was left with 'little option' after he skipped repeated summonses and refused to join the investigation.

IMAGE: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Photograph: Amit Sharma/ANI Photo

It also cited the ED's claim that Kejriwal conspired and was actively involved in use and concealment of the proceeds of crime to reject his petition against his arrest.

The court chastised the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, who was claimed to be involved in money laundering in his 'personal capacity' and in his capacity as the national convenor of the political party, for questioning the timing of his arrest and underlined that an investigation against the 'classes and masses' cannot be different.

 

The court rebuked Kejriwal for 'casting aspersions' on the judicial process with his claim about an approver making donations to the Bharatiya Janata Party through electoral bonds, saying the law relating to approvers was over 100 years old and not enacted to falsely implicate the politician.

With Kejriwal failing to get any reprieve from the high court, the AAP said he will appeal against the judgment in the Supreme Court.

It said the excise policy case was the 'biggest political conspiracy' to finish off the party.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma dismissed the AAP leader's petition and asserted that there was no contravention of legal provisions as the agency had enough material in its possession to nail him.

"Courts are concerned with constitutional morality and not political morality," she asserted.

'The material which has been encapsulated reveals that Sh Arvind Kejriwal had allegedly conspired with other persons and was involved in the formulation of Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, in the process of demanding kickbacks from the South Group, as well as in generation, use and concealment of proceeds of crime,' said the court in its 106-page order.

The court noted there are statements of witnesses, including approvers, which 'reflect' that Kejriwal was 'allegedly personally involved' in formulation of the excise policy and 'prima-facie in process of demanding kickbacks from the South Group in exchange of favours'.

'Material has also been collected by the Directorate of Enforcement, in the form of statements of witnesses of hawala operators, one candidate of AAP and some survey workers, area managers, assembly managers, who had worked with the AAP during the Goa Election 2022, along with WhatsApp chats between several persons, and other material collected through raids of Income Tax, which reflect that the kickbacks which were received from South Group were utilised by AAP for funding Goa Elections,' added the bench.

It said since there is 'prima-facie material' regarding laundering of the kickbacks for Goa elections, the recovery in the year 2024 or non-recovery of any remaining amount would become clear only after the chargesheet has been filed.

The court ruled that Kejriwal's arrest was not illegal and the trial court remanded him in the custody of the agency by a well-reasoned order.

"This court holds that arrest of Kejriwal was not in contravention of sections concerned. Consequently, his remand cannot be termed as illegal," Justice Sharma concluded.

She read out the judgement for 25 minutes and also explained certain portions of her decision in Hindi.

The court clarified that it was not dealing with Kejriwal's bail plea but his writ petition challenging the arrest on certain grounds.

The court also said nothing in its order shall tantamount to an expression of opinion on the merits of the case during trial.

It emphasised that law applied equally to all and also held that the rigours of Section 70 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which deals with companies, are attracted in this case. The ED had likened AAP to a company and Kejriwal its director.

The court observed that political considerations and equations are not relevant to legal proceedings, clarifying that the present case was not a conflict between the Centre and Kejriwal but between him and the ED.

The court said the statements of approvers against the AAP national convenor would be judged during trial as it cannot hold a mini trial at this stage.

In his petition, Kejriwal had sought his release on several grounds, including that the belated statements of approvers Raghav Magunta and Sarath Reddy cannot be relied upon as the latter even donated to the BJP through electoral bonds.

Aurobindo Pharma purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 5 crore on November 15, 2022, five days after one of its directors, Reddy, was arrested in the excise case by the ED.

According to data released by the Election Commission, the company had bought electoral bonds for a total of Rs 52 crore with more than half of it going to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

'In this court's opinion, who gives tickets for contesting elections to whom or who purchases electoral bonds and for what purpose is not the concern of this court as this court is required to apply the law and the evidence recorded as it is,' the court said in its judgement.

It also asserted that no 'special privileges' can be extended to a chief minister by an investigating agency.

On Kejriwal questioning the timing of his arrest, the judge said, 'In this court's opinion, this contention has to be rejected since the investigating agency under the Indian criminal jurisprudence cannot be directed to conduct the investigation in accordance with convenience or dictates of a person. ...Investigation qua classes and masses cannot be different.'

Kejriwal, who was arrested by the ED on March 21 after he skipped nine summonses for his appearance, had argued that the federal anti-money laundering agency could have questioned him through video conference or by sending a questionnaire or quizzed him at his residence.

The court observed that it cannot accept Kejriwal's contention that he was arrested on account of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, adding that the issue has to be examined only in the context of law, and not the timing of arrest.

'The conduct of the petitioner Sh. Kejriwal of not joining investigation left little option with the Directorate of Enforcement other than his arrest for the purpose of investigation of a pending case, in which other co-accused are in judicial custody, and the investigating agency is also running against time in view of the order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court vide which it was ordered that the trial in this case should proceed expeditiously,' the court said.

Meanwhile, senior AAP leader and Delhi minister Saurabh Bharadwaj told a press conference soon after the HC order that the party is hopeful that the Supreme Court will give relief to Kejriwal in the same way it granted bail to AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh recently.

"We respect the institution of the high court but we respectfully submit that we do not agree with its order and will move the Supreme Court against it. The so-called excise policy scam is the biggest political conspiracy to finish off the party and Kejriwal," he alleged.

The BJP, however, hit out at the AAP supremo, saying the movement which began with India Against Corruption stir has now turned into 'Kejri Corruption Kranti' and asked if he is now left with any moral right to continue in office while he is under arrest.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.