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Delhi HC again Rejects Plea to Remove Arvind Kejriwal as CM

Delhi HC again Rejects Plea to Remove Arvind Kejriwal as CM

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 4: For the third time, the Delhi High Court on Thursday rejected a plea for the removal of the Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal as the chief minister of Delhi on his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the alleged liquor policy scam.

“Let democracy take its own course,” a bench led by acting Chief Justice Manmohan said making a significant observation in the prevailing situation when the ruling AAP has insisted that Mr Kejriwal would run the government from inside the jail if he was not released. Mr Kejriwal is in the judicial custody till April 15 while his plea for an interim relief declaring his arrest illegal was pending before another bench in the Delhi High Court.

The court also refused to counsel Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena on forcing Mr Kejriwal to relinquish his post. “He (Mr Saxena) doesn’t need our guidance. We are nobody to advise him. He will do whatever he has to, in accordance with the law,” the High Court said.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation by the Hindu Sena, which sought direction to the Lieutenant Governor to direct Mr Kejriwal to resign. The petitioner was told to prioritise national interest over “personal issues” and, if it wanted to persist, to “raise this issue before another forum.”

The court had dismissed similar pleas last week and in January (weeks before Mr Kejriwal was arrested). Last week the acting Chief Justice had said the removal of a sitting Chief Minister was outside the scope of judicial interference. “It is for the other wings of the government to examine, in accordance with the law, this issue,” the court said. And for the plea before that, a bench led by then Chief Justice Rajendra Menon made a firm statement, noting “prosecution is going on… he may be acquitted.”

Mr Kejriwal was arrested on March 21 in connection with the alleged liquor policy scam that has roiled the AAP weeks before the election. The opposition has condemned the arrest of a sitting Chief Minister and other senior political leaders, including the Bharat Rashtra Samithi’s K Kavitha.

Arguing for interim relief Wednesday, Mr Kejriwal’s lawyer questioned the timing of the arrests. “Why this urgency? I am not talking about politics… am talking about law,” senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, arguing the arrest was meant to “demolish AAP before the first vote is cast.”

After hearing Mr Singhvi and the counsel of the ED, the High Court had reserved its verdict for Thursday afternoon. However, the order was not delivered till late in the evening. The ED is investigating what it claims is a ₹ 600 crore scam involving the now-scrapped liquor excise policy for the national capital.

The agency believes the profit margins were revised arbitrarily to cover bribes paid for the allotment of alcohol sales licences, and that this money – amounting to ₹ 45 crore at least – was used by the AAP to fund its Goa and Punjab election campaigns. Mr Kejriwal and the AAP have vehemently denied all charges, and have accused the ruling BJP of manipulating central agencies, like the ED, to target and harass rivals before polls.

The BJP, in turn, has denied these claims.




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