Kejriwal sent to judicial custody in Tihar till April 15 | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Kejriwal sent to judicial custody in Tihar till April 15

By, New Delhi
Apr 02, 2024 05:36 AM IST

Delhi court remanded CM Arvind Kejriwal to judicial custody till April 15 in connection with excise policy. AAP alleges BJP conspiracy. Kejriwal is fourth AAP lawmaker in Tihar Jail.

A Delhi court on Monday remanded chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to judicial custody till April 15 in connection with the now-scrapped 2021-22 excise policy, making him the fourth prominent lawmaker from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to be lodged in Tihar Jail just three weeks before general elections.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal being brought to Tihar Jail on Monday. (HT Photo)
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal being brought to Tihar Jail on Monday. (HT Photo)

The arguments before special judge Kaveri Baweja also shed light on the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) questioning and the role of Vijay Nair, a key figure in the case who allegedly played a significant role in facilitating allegedly illicit activities and connections within the liquor industry, and whether he reported to Delhi ministers Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj.

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The judge noted ED’s contention that Kejriwal’s release could hamper the investigation as it moved an application to place Kejriwal under 15 days of judicial custody but added that it may seek additional custodial interrogation later.

“Since the investigation of the case is stated to be pending qua role of the arrestee, for unearthing the further proceeds of crime and identifying the other person who may be involved or connected with the above, the above­named accused is remanded to judicial custody till 15.04.2024,” the court said in its order.

The AAP said Kejriwal’s arrest and imprisonment was part of a conspiracy by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and ED to keep the party from performing well in the general elections.

The CM was moved to ward No 4 in Tihar’s jail No 2 on Monday evening. Prison officials said he was allowed to carry several books — including the Ramayana, Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita and How Prime Ministers Decide by Neerja Chowdhury — along with a religious locket. He was also allowed home-cooked food.

AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh and Satyender Jain are currently in jail numbers 1, 7, and 5 respectively.

Kejriwal was arrested on March 21 by ED, hours after the Delhi high court denied his request for interim protection from arrest — a startling turn of events that left the Capital’s politics in turmoil and pushed to new heights the ongoing conflict between the Union government and the AAP. The party has insisted that Kejriwal will continue as CM and he has issued two orders from jail, sparking condemnation from the BJP.

ED had earlier alleged that Nair, who served as the head of AAP’s media and communications department, had close ties with Kejriwal, but said in its application that when questioned about his interaction with Nair, the AAP chief said that Nair reported to other leaders of the party, not to him.

“On being asked about the extent of interaction and reporting of Vijay Nair to the arrestee, he stated that Nair did not report to him but to Aatishi Marlena and Saurav Bharadwaj and his interaction with Nair was limited,” said the ED application.

Atishi and Bharadwaj are currently heading several portfolios in Delhi’s cabinet.

Additional solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju, representing the agency, added that evidence contradicted this, citing Nair’s close association with Kejriwal, his stay in a cabinet minister’s bungalow, and his work from the CM’s camp office.

“The statements of Nair himself reveal that he stayed in a cabinet minister’s bungalow and worked from the camp office of the CM. It was also put to the arrestee to explain that why would someone, who reported to other leaders of AAP, work from his camp office which anyways is meant for the work of the CM of Delhi and not for the party. Kejriwal evaded replying to this by claiming unawareness to the persons who work at the CM camp office,” stated ED’s application.

It further contended that evidence of Nair’s meetings with various liquor industry stakeholders was presented but Kejriwal said he was unaware of these individuals, despite Nair’s senior role in the AAP and the party benefitting from these meetings, particularly in the Goa elections campaign.

“He was also shown different WhatsApp chats showing the involvement of Nair, who was a close associate of the arrestee and lived and worked very closely with the arrestee. The arrestee has not answered the questions posed to him by questioning the authenticity of digital evidence shown to him. The arrestee also did not reveal the passwords of his digital devices which inhibits the evidence collection and also shows the non-cooperation of the arrestee,” said ED.

The agency alleged that evidence of hawala transfers amounting to approximately 45 crore was presented, along with witness statements and WhatsApp chats implicating AAP’s involvement, but Kejriwal claimed ignorance even though the funds benefitted the AAP. ED has alleged that 45 crore was used by AAP in the 2022 Goa assembly polls.

According to ED, Kejriwal provided false evidence regarding the AAP’s internal functioning and dismissed statements from party leaders as “confused” when confronted with contradictions, especially in relation to deputing election in-charge for the 2022 Goa assembly elections.

Nair, who is currently in judicial custody, was arrested on November 13, 2022.

ED, in its first charge sheet filed in January 2023, maintained that Nair was the key person from the AAP who orchestrated the conspiracy of kickbacks and received 100 crore from the “South Group”, allegedly comprising BRS legislator K Kavitha, Raghav Magunta, P Sarath Reddy, Benoy Babu and others.

It also alleged that in exchange for the apparent kickbacks, Nair facilitated the “South Group” in getting stakes in different wholesale businesses and then directed big manufacturers to them to help recover the kickbacks.

ED further alleged that Nair was directly and knowingly involved in activities related to proceeds of crime of 192.8 crore which was acquired in guise of profit generated by Indo Spirits, a special purpose vehicle created for the purpose of recoupment of the kickbacks paid by the South Group. The charge sheet cited statements of co-accused Sameer Mahendru, a businessman, who had said that Kejriwal referred to Nair as “his boy”.

After his arrest, Kejriwal was first produced before the court on March 22 and was sent to six days’ ED custody. He was again produced before the court on March 28 when he accused ED of running a racket in the name of investigating the case, and linked electoral bond payments to the BJP to alleged corruption.

“I have evidence that there is a racket operating. Sarath Chandra Reddy gave over 55 crore donation to the BJP. Money trail is established. He donated this money to BJP after being arrested (in the excise scam case),” he said on March 28.

Hyderabad-based businessman Reddy, director of Aurobindo Pharma, was arrested in this case in November 2022. After the electoral bond data was revealed two weeks ago, it showed that Aurobindo Pharma donated 50 crore to the BJP in November 2023 through affiliates. In 2022, the company purchased bonds worth 4.5 crore that were encashed by the BJP.

The AAP lashed out at the ED and BJP.

“Since the beginning ED and BJP conspired against Arvind Kejriwal. Their only aim was to put Arvind Kejriwal in jail and stop him from campaigning for the upcoming Lok Sabha election. They wanted to ensure that the Aam Aadmi Party is not able to perform well in the election. This is why they arrested Arvind Kejriwal when the election model code of conduct is in force,” senior AAP leader Jasmine Shah said during a press conference.

He also said the BJP “wants to impose President’s Rule in Delhi” and “poach AAP MLAs”.

Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva reiterated the party line, arguing that Kejriwal was complicit in the case and demanded he resign.

“By naming Atishi and Saurabh Bhardwaj in his statement, Kejriwal has tarnished their political futures and paved the way for his wife Sunita Kejriwal to become the next chief minister of Delhi,” said Sachdeva.

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