Arvind Kejriwal approaches High Court, denied urgent hearing | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Arvind Kejriwal approaches High Court, denied urgent hearing

By, New Delhi
Mar 24, 2024 01:10 AM IST

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal sought a hearing on Sunday to contest a lower court’s order a day earlier remanding him to ED custody until March 28.

The Delhi high court on Saturday refused a request by the lawyers of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to urgently hear an appeal against his arrest by federal authorities, dealing yet another setback to the politician who will now need to remain in Enforcement Directorate custody till at least March 27, when the courts reopen following a break for the Holi festival.

Aam Aadmi Party leaders protest against the arrest of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi on Saturday. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo)
Aam Aadmi Party leaders protest against the arrest of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi on Saturday. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo)

The decision by the court, according to people aware of the matter, came amid efforts by Kejriwal’s colleagues and family to drum up support and increase pressure on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the arrest on Thursday in connection with ED’s probe into the allegations of irregularities in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy that sent a shockwave across the Capital’s political landscape in the run-up to the general elections.

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Kejriwal sought a hearing on Sunday to contest a lower court’s order a day earlier remanding him to ED custody until March 28. But the request has not been heeded and will only be taken up after the Holi break, a court official said, asking not to be named.

In a petition filed on Saturday, Kejriwal claimed his arrest and remand were illegal since no case has been made against him, according to his legal team. They said it violated his fundamental rights.

“The present writ petition also raises an issue of liberty and exercise of arbitrary powers by a central agency in a federal setup in the midst of General Election, 2024,” Kejriwal’s petition in court contended.

“There was no justification for arresting Kejriwal now when ED felt compelled to cite certain statements recorded in 2021-22,” said Abhishek Singhvi, one of Kejriwal’s lawyers, while challenging his remand application by the agency on Friday. Singhvi maintained there was no direct evidence tying the chief minister to any wrongdoing.

But ED called Kejriwal the “kingpin” behind alleged money laundering related to the policy, saying he formulated rules to favor certain liquor businesses in exchange for kickbacks that were used to fund his Aam Aadmi Party’s election campaigning.

The chief minister was arrested on Thursday night after questioning at his home by ED, which is investigating purported violations in Delhi’s excuse policy for 2021-22. His arrest came hours after the high court rejected his request for interim protection from being detained.

On Friday, the arrest prompted dramatic exchanges in the lower court as lawyers representing Kejriwal vehemently argued against his custodial remand citing lack of evidence and alleging political vendetta. ED, however, came back with a flurry of accusations, claiming to have solid proof of financial wrongdoing and corruption against the CM.

The agency accused Kejriwal of playing a pivotal role in the party receiving around 100 crore in bribes and claimed he was “vicariously liable” for money laundering offenses as the party’s top leader.

Kejriwal is the third prominent AAP figure to be arrested in the probe, after his former deputy Manish Sisodia and the party’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh. A leader from another opposition party also was arrested recently.

Outside the courtroom, AAP continued to hold protests on Saturday, likening their leader to a martyr.

Kejriwal’s wife, Sunita Kejriwal, met the AAP leader at the ED office and addressed a press conference, reading out what the said was a statement by the CM. “Whether inside or outside, every moment of my life is dedicated to serving the country. Every drop of my blood is dedicated to the country… No prison bars can keep your brother, your son inside for long,” he was quoted as saying.

In a separate press conference, AAP leader and minister Atishi asked the ED to file a case against the BJP, alleging it received crores of rupees from an accused in the excise policy “scam” through electoral bonds. Atishi asserted that the ED has not been able to establish a money trail against any AAP leader despite multiple raids, arrests and two-year-long investigations in the “scam”.

Delhi ministers and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann observed “Shaheedi Diwas” (day of martyrdom) and called on people to come out in support of Kejriwal.

Shaheedi Diwas is observed on March 23 to honour freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar, who were hanged on this day by the British.

For the first time after Kejriwal’s arrest, all AAP leaders, including Delhi ministers Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Kailash Gahlot, Gopal Rai, Raj Kumar Anand and Imran Hussain, were seen on the same platform at the Shaheedi Park on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg.

Speaking to AAP supporters who gathered at the venue, Mann said the BJP is trying to murder democracy in the country.

“Just as Bhagat Singh fought against the British, people of the country should fight against corruption now. Internationally, people are discussing that democracy is in danger in our country. In every state where BJP cannot form the government, it does not let the government run and function properly, be it Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Delhi or West Bengal,” said Mann.

Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva said Kejriwal alone is responsible for the pain that his family members were undergoing, reacting to the statement made by Sunita Kejriwal. “Arvind Kejriwal is responsible for making her speak with so much pain. It would have been better if they had held a press conference the day Arvind Kejriwal was taking government facilities, home, car and security because he had taken a vow to not take these benefits,” he said.

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