Delhi Excise Policy case: SC issues notice to ED on Arvind Kejriwal's plea against arrest

New Delhi: The Supreme Court issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on a plea by Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal challenging his arrest by the agency and his subsequent remand in the excise policy case.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta refused to give an early hearing of the case as sought by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Kejriwal.
During the hearing, Singhvi urged the bench to give a short date for the hearing, preferably the coming Friday.
The bench said, "We will give you a short date, but it is not possible to meet the date suggested by you."
Singhvi said the arrest of Kejriwal was made to disable him from campaigning.
The apex court posted the case for further hearing in the week commencing from April 29.
The bench, in its order, stated, "Issue notice. returnable on April 24. Notice is accepted by the respondent (ED), who is presented in court on caveat. Reply to be filed on or before April 24 and rejoinder (by Kejriwal) on or before April 27. Post-in week commencing April 29."
Aam Aadmi Party leader Kejriwal has approached the Supreme Court challenging a Delhi High Court judgment that dismissed his plea against arrest by the ED and his subsequent remand in the excise policy case.
While filing an appeal in the apex court, he contended that his arrest after the announcement of the general elections was "motivated by extraneous considerations.".
The appeal stated that the sitting Chief Minister had been arrested in a "motivated manner" in the middle of the election cycle, especially after the declaration of the schedule of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
On April 9, the High Court dismissed his plea for release from jail and rejected his argument of political vendetta amid the looming Lok Sabha elections.
The High Court had said that Kejriwal's absence from nine ED summons over six months undermined any claims of special privilege as Chief Minister, suggesting his arrest was an inevitable consequence of his non-cooperation.
Seeking urgent intervention from the Supreme Court, the Chief Minister's appeal stated, it is an issue of illegal curtailment of Kejriwal's liberty.
Kejriwal's arrest also constitutes an unprecedented assault on the tenets of democracy based on free and fair elections and federalism, both of which form significant constituents of the basic structure of the Constitution, the appeal further stated.
The petition, while seeking the release of the Delhi Chief Minister from jail, said the ED has allowed its process to be used and misused by vested interests as an instrument of oppression to not only invade the liberty of the political opponents during the 2024 general election of such vested interests but also to tarnish their reputation and self-esteem.
Such lawlessness cannot be allowed to be perpetrated under any circumstances, it said while urging the apex court to declare Kejriwal's arrest illegal.
"The petitioner's arrest, therefore, bears serious, irreversible ramifications for the future of electoral democracy in India, for if the petitioner is not released forthwith to participate in the upcoming elections, it will establish a precedence in law for ruling parties to arrest heads of political opposition on flimsy and vexatious charges before elections, thereby eroding the core principles of our Constitution," the petition stated.
Filing the appeal against the High Court judgement, Kejriwal said that there is no material in the possession of the Enforcement Directorate based on which an inference of guilt can be made under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
"Moreover, the circumstances and chronology of events clearly show that there was no necessity to arrest the petitioner (Kejriwal)," it added.
The arrest was made solely based on the subsequent, contradictory, and highly belated statements of co-accused who have now turned approvers, the appeal stated.
An appeal against the High Court order stated, "Moreover, such statements and material had been with the Enforcement Directorate for the last nine months and still the arrest has been made illegally in the middle of the 2024 general election."
These statements relied upon in the grounds of arrest were recorded by the ED from December 7, 2022, till July 27, 2023, and subsequently no further material has been collected against Kejriwal, it stated.
"There was no legal or factual basis for reason to believe or material in possession to consider the petitioner guilty for effecting an arrest. There was no necessity for the arrest on March 21, 2024, based on this material, as stated in the appeal.
Also, no statement was recorded before the arrest on March 21, 2024, to seek any explanation about this old material, before deciding on the requirements of Section 19 of PMLA, it added.
Kejriwal was arrested by the ED on March 21 in connection with a money laundering probe relating to alleged irregularities in the now-scapped Delhi excise policy 2021-22.

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