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Delhi Minister Resigns Accusing AAP “Involved in Corruption,” Kejriwal Moves SC for Release

Delhi Minister Resigns Accusing AAP “Involved in Corruption,” Kejriwal Moves SC for Release

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 10: Further compounding the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s problems, one of his ministers Raaj Kumar Anand on Wednesday resigned both from his cabinet and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accusing the party of being “involved in corruption” even as his petition before the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing on his appeal against his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate was deferred at least till Monday.

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud on Wednesday agreed to “immediately look at” the email sent by Mr Kejriwal’s lawyers for an urgent hearing of his petition. His advocates wanted the CJI to list the case for hearing on Wednesday itself, but Mr Justice Chandrachud he would look into the matter urgently, it was not heard during the day.

Mr Kejriwal would now have to spend at least the weekend in the Tihar jail as the apex court goes for vacation from Thursday to be reopened on Monday. The Chief Minister’s lawyers said the petition would now “most likely” be listed for hearing on Monday (April 15). Mr Kejriwal appealed to the Supreme Court a day after the Delhi High Court refused to quash his arrest in the liquor policy case.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and Shadan Farasat, appearing for Mr Kejriwal, made the oral mentioning before the CJI. Mr Singhvi said Mr Kejriwal’s arrest was made based on “unreliable documents” suppressed from him. “I have sent an email for urgent listing. This is the arrest of a Chief Minister,” he added.

“I will immediately look at it. I make sure that all emails are looked at,” Chief Justice Chandrachud replied. On April 9, the Delhi High Court had found nothing illegal about the Chief Minister’s arrest. A Single Judge Bench of Justice Swarna Kanta Sharma based its order on the prima facie finding that there was adequate material, including statements of approvers, involvement of middlemen, and references that cash was handed over for expenditure in the Goa elections.

Mr Kejriwal has argued that the decision to swoop in and arrest him on March 21, merely days before the General Election, was a carefully calibrated move to create an uneven playing field in favour of the ruling BJP. He contended that his arrest and the case against the excise policy was an instance of a Central agency, the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) in this case, being misused as a weapon to crush the Opposition.

Earlier in the day, soon after Mr Anand announced his resignation from the AAP and the ministry, AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj in a press conference alleged Mr Anand was made to quit “under pressure” by the BJP. Mr Anand, however, did not indicate or allude to coming under pressure as alleged by Mr Bharadwaj.

Mr Anand said he resigned over what he called was the party’s downfall from an anti-corruption group to a party “that’s involved in corruption,” a clear reference to the Delhi liquor policy case and the arrest of key leaders including the AAP chief Mr Kejriwal and his former deputy Manish Sisodia.

“I joined AAP after seeing its strong message on fighting corruption. Today, the party has found itself in the middle of corrupt practices. That’s why I have decided to quit,” said Mr Anand, who was the social welfare, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes minister.

“Today, I am very sad, so I have come to share my sorrow. I came into politics when Arvind Kejriwal had said rajniti badlegi toh desh badlega (if politics changes, the country will change). Rajniti toh nahi badli, lekin rajneta badal gaye (politics has not changed, but politicians have),” Mr Anand said.

Mr Anand, the MLA from Patel Nagar, is the first Delhi government minister to quit from his post and the AAP as a direct result of the arrest of Mr Kejriwal and the entire liquor policy case. He also alleged the AAP of discriminatory practices in staffing leadership positions in the party.

“There is no Dalit MLA or councillor in the Aam Aadmi Party. Dalit leaders are not even appointed to leadership positions. I follow the principles of Baba Saheb Ambedkar. If I cannot work for Dalits, then there is no point in being in the party,” Mr Anand told reporters in Delhi.

Mr Anand’s house was searched by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a customs-linked money laundering case in November 2023. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in a complaint to a local court had alleged false declarations in imports for customs evasions of over ₹ 7 crore. The ED then filed a complaint against Mr Anand. The minister, however, refused to link his resignation with the ED raids. With the Chief Minister in jail, it is unclear how the vacant portfolio will be assigned.

Delhi Minister Atishi is one of the key AAP leaders who is carrying on Mr Kejriwal’s battle while he is in jail. Atishi last week alleged the BJP was using pressure tactics to force AAP leaders to join the BJP, a comment that drew a defamation notice against her.

“The BJP has approached me through someone very close. They have asked me to join the BJP and said this will save my political career. They have threatened that if I don’t switch over, ED will arrest me within a month,” Atishi had said, after which the Delhi BJP unit sent her a defamation notice.

The ED has alleged Mr Kejriwal and two of his colleagues, including Mr Sisodia, allegedly took kickbacks while framing the now-scrapped liquor policy. The ED alleged the policy provided an impossibly high profit margin of nearly 185 per cent for retailers and 12 per cent for wholesalers. Of the latter, six per cent was to be recovered by the AAP as bribes, which amounted to over ₹ 600 crore, the ED alleged. This was then allegedly used as poll expenses.

Mr Kejriwal and the AAP have repeatedly denied all the allegations. They have claimed a political conspiracy against the Chief Minister, who is a high-profile member of the Opposition bloc INDIA.

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday expressed its displeasure over repeated filing of petitions seeking the removal of Mr Kejriwal from the post of the chief minister after his arrest. The court said once it has dealt with the issue and opined that it fell in the executive domain, there should not be any “repeat litigation” as it was not a James Bond movie that will have sequels.

A bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan pulled up petitioner Sandeep Kumar, a former AAP MLA who sought the removal of Kerjiwal from the office, for trying to involve the court in a “political thicket” and said it will impose costs of ₹ 50,000 on him.

“This is not like a James Bond movie where we will have sequels. (Lt) Governor will take a call on this. You are trying to involve us in a political thicket, that’s all,” remarked the court. The bench, also comprising Justice Manmeet PS Arora, reiterated that it cannot impose governor’s rule in the capital. Observing that the petitioner was “making a mockery of the system”, the court said, “Rs 50,000 costs on you. We will pass the order.”

On March 28, the court had dismissed a PIL for Arvind Kejriwal’s removal, saying that while the petitioner had failed to show any legal bar that prohibited the arrested chief minister from holding office, there was also no scope for judicial interference in such cases as it was for the other organs of the State to look into the issue. It also said it cannot declare a breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the national capital.

On April 4, the court had refused to entertain a second PIL on the issue and said it was Mr Kejriwal’s personal choice to continue as the chief minister and granted liberty to the petitioner to approach the lieutenant governor (LG). On Wednesday, Mr Kumar’s counsel argued that his case required interpretation of the Constitution and that on account of his arrest in a money laundering case, Mr Kejriwal was now not qualified to hold the office of the chief minister.

Justice Manmohan said if there was a grievance, an appeal should have been filed against the earlier decisions instead of filing a third petition on the same issue. As the petitioner’s lawyer continued to argue and questioned where he must go if the government was not according to the Constitution, the court told him not to make political speeches.

“Please don’t give a political speech here. Go to a corner of the street and do it over there. Please don’t do that. Your client may be a politician and he may like to get involved in politics but we are not involved in politics. We stay out of politics,” said Justice Manmohan. “You are making a mockery of the system. Don’t reduce us to a joke. It is only because of people like you, your client, that we are reduced to a joke. We are imposing some heavy costs on you. Please don’t come back with repeat litigation,” added the judge.

The court further said the petitioner was “persisting” in spite of the remarks made by a single judge while dealing with his petition earlier this week and said imposition of costs was the only way to “take care” of the petitions that are coming up on a “daily basis.” “This is enough. Look at the court. The court is packed with litigants. Have some courtesy,” the court said.



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