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No privilege to politicians: SC on bail to Kejriwal

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
May 10, 2024 22:20 IST
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Granting interim bail to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal would not amount to grant of privilege or special status to politicians, the Supreme Court on Friday said, while observing that the Aam Aadmi Party leader has no criminal antecedents and is not a threat to the society.

IMAGE: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addresses the party workers as he was released from Tihar Jail after the Supreme Court granted him interim bail in the Delhi excise policy case, in New Delhi on Friday, May 10, 2024. Photograph: Amit Sharma/ANI Photo

A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, while granting interim bail till June 1 to Kejriwal in a money laundering case linked to the alleged excise policy scam, rejected the submission of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that granting the relief for Lok Sabha campaigning will create a separate class of politicians.

"We would reject the argument that the reasoning recorded by us in the paragraphs results in grant of privilege or special status to politicians. As observed in the paragraphs, several peculiarities of the case have weighed with us," it said.


It noted that the investigation in the case has remained pending since August 2022 and Kejriwal was arrested on March 21 this year.

"The appellant -- Arvind Kejriwal is the Chief Minister of Delhi and a leader of one of the national parties. No doubt, serious accusations have been made, but he has not been convicted. He does not have any criminal antecedents. He is not a threat to society," the bench said.

It further said, "More importantly, legality and validity of the arrest itself are under challenge before this court and we are yet to finally pronounce on the same. The fact situation cannot be compared with harvesting of crops or plea to look after business affairs."

The top court highlighted that once the matter is sub judice and the questions relating to the legality of the arrest are under consideration, a more holistic and libertarian view is justified in the background that the 18th Lok Sabha general elections are being held.

"It is no gain saying that the General Elections to the Lok Sabha are the most significant and important event this year, as they should be in a national election year. Between 650-700 million voters out of an electorate of about 970 million will cast their votes to elect the government of this country for the next five years. General Elections supply the vis viva to a democracy," the bench said.

The top court added, "Given the prodigious importance, we reject the argument raised on behalf of the prosecution that grant of interim bail/release on this account would be giving a premium of placing the politicians in a benefic position compared to ordinary citizens of this country."

Noting that the court always takes into consideration the peculiarities associated with the person in question and the surrounding circumstances while examining the question of grant of interim bail and release, the bench said, "In fact, to ignore the same would be iniquitous and wrong."

It termed Kejriwal's failure to appear before the ED on nine summons as 'a negative factor' and said there are several other facets which are required to be taken into consideration while granting bail.

As soon as the bench assembled for pronouncing the order, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pointed out that radical preacher Amritpal Singh, who is currently lodged in Assam's Dibrugarh jail under the National Security Act, has approached the government for contesting the elections.

"Now we have been approached by Amritpal Singh. That's our concern. I could not find any precedent to assist the court on this (interim bail for poll campaigning). A person is being released for election campaigning," he told the bench.

Justice Khanna told Mehta, "That's something entirely different. You can't compare it. Let us not put in a simple strait jacket like that."

The apex court said Kejriwal will have to surrender and go back to jail on June 2.

The matter relates to alleged corruption and money laundering in the formulation and execution of the Delhi government's now scrapped excise policy for 2021-22.

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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.
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