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Kejriwal Granted Interim Bail till June 1 to Campaign in Elections

Kejriwal Granted Interim Bail till June 1 to Campaign in Elections

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 10: The Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was on Friday granted a conditional interim bail to campaign for his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the current Lok Sabha elections. The bail given on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 will remain in force till June 1, the day when the last of the seven phase elections go to polls, and Mr Kejriwal will have to surrender before the prison authorities on June 2.

A bench of the Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta set the conditions for Mr Kejriwal’s interim bail ignoring the objections raised by the Enforcement Directorate that election campaign was not a fundamental right and the “unscrupulous” politicians engaged in criminal activities should not be allowed to go out on bail. “Just 21 days out on bail will make no difference in the case,” the court quipped while granting the interim bail.

As per the conditions laid by the court, Mr Kejriwal during his bail period cannot go to the Chief Minister’s Office or the Delhi Secretariat, though he can campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, he is not to sign any official file without Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena’s permission. cannot speak about the Delhi liquor policy case, or discuss the allegations against him and cannot contact any witness in the case.

The court also said the pleas for extension of the interim bail beyond June 1 would be heard next week. The legal team of Mr Kejriwal, who was arrested by the ED on March 21 in a money laundering case stemming from the alleged Delhi liquor policy scam, had sought interim bail till July i.e., till after the election and the formation of the new government.

In granting interim bail for Mr Kejriwal, the Supreme Court had shot down arguments about the term of release, noting, “Let us not draw parallels with other cases. 21 days will not make any difference.” “For one-and-a-half years he was there… he could have been arrested before or after (the election) also. Whatever it is, 21 days here or there should not make any difference,” the court said.

“Arvind Kejriwal is the Chief Minister of Delhi and a leader of one of the national parties. No doubt, serious accusations have been made, but he has not been convicted. He does not have any criminal antecedents. He is not a threat to the society,” the court said.

The two-judge bench said bail conditions would be similar to those imposed on Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, Mr Kejriwal’s colleague who was arrested in October in connection with the same case and given bail in early April.

Crucially, Sanjay Singh was allowed to participate in political activities, meaning he could campaign for the AAP. And that is what Mr Kejriwal is also expected to be able to do, once he is released.

Mr Kejriwal’s team had made a strong pitch for his release to allow him to campaign for his AAP in the days before the election for Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha seats – all held by the BJP – on May 25. Shortly after Mr Kejriwal got bail, Mr Singh posted on X. “The truth can be troubled but not defeated. The decision of the Supreme Court is welcomed. The dictatorship will end and the country will see the wonders of Kejriwal… Satyamev Jayate (the truth will win),” he said.

AAP leader and Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said, “Today the Supreme Court has given a ray of hope to all those who believe in the Constitution. Our party, people of Delhi thank the Supreme Court…” Mr Kejriwal’s release order has also been cheered by the opposition, including the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, which heads the INDIA bloc of which the AAP is a member.

“We welcome the intervention by the Supreme Court in granting interim bail to Arvind Kejriwal…” Congress leader Pawan Khera said, as he then switched focus to former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. “We hope the ex-Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren, also gets due justice.”

Trinamool Congress leader and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also welcomed the decision, posting on X, “I am very happy to see that Arvind Kejriwal has got interim bail. Ex-Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray, who is part of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction that is part of the INDIA bloc, also spoke up, saying, “Arvind Kejriwalji getting justice and relief against dictatorial regime in the country is a huge sign of winds of change.”

Mr Thackeray said, “He has been speaking the truth and that is what the BJP dislikes. More power to him and the INDIA alliance. We will protect our Constitution and democracy!”

On Thursday the ED, which had opposed grant of bail, filed an affidavit outlining its objections. The agency – criticised for allegedly operating at the behest of the ruling BJP to target and harass political rivals before the election – said no politician could claim “special status” higher than that of an ordinary citizen, and is as liable to be arrested and detained for committing offences as any other citizen.

There was no “fundamental” right that will allow Arvind Kejriwal the right to bail to campaign, the ED argued. The agency also pointed out that no political leader had ever been granted bail for campaigning and said releasing Mr Kejriwal from jail to canvas for his party candidates would set a wrong precedent.

The ED’s affidavit said if “unscrupulous” politicians were given bail for campaigning, none of them can ever be arrested, as elections are an “all-year-round phenomenon” in India. Such relief would incentivise every criminal to be a politician and be in campaign mode throughout the year while committing rampant offences, the agency said in a 44-page affidavit.

The court, however, said Mr Kejriwal was an elected chief minister and not a habitual offender. “There are elections… these are extraordinary circumstances and he is not a habitual offender,” the bench said. The court earlier said it would consider the question of bail not on grounds of his political profession, but purely on possible exceptional circumstances that warrant the temporary release of the AAP leader.

In a critical question to the ED, the court asked why it had taken it two years to act against the Chief Minister and his party. “The issue is that it has taken two years for this. It is not good for any investigating agency to say that it takes two years to unearth… now when will the trial start,” it asked.

The ED claims the liquor policy (now scrapped) created by the AAP government allowed it to receive kickbacks for license allotment, which was to the tune of ₹ 100 crores that was used to fund its poll campaigns. The AAP and Mr Kejriwal have firmly denied the charges, and have accused the BJP of making false accusations to discredit the party and its leaders before the election.

Arvind Kejriwal, a prominent figure in the opposition alliance challenging Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, was detained in March amid a long-standing corruption probe. His arrest was met with accusations of political conspiracy, with several leaders within his party questioning the timing of the arrest.

The Supreme Court also observed that the investigation has been going on for the last 1.5 years, but Mr Kejriwal was arrested in March, days before voting for the Lok Sabha polls began.

“The ED’s Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) was registered in August 2022 while the chief minister was arrested on March 21 this year. He (Kejriwal) was out there for one-and-a-half years. He could have been arrested earlier or after but nothing such thing happened.”

“It is no gain saying that General Elections to Lok Sabha is the most significant and an important event this year, as it should be in a national election year. Between 650-700 million voters out of an electorate of about 970 million will cast their votes to elect the government of this country for the next five years. General Elections supply the vis viva to a democracy,” the court said.

“Given the prodigious importance, we reject the argument raised on behalf of the prosecution that grant of interim bail/release on this account would be giving premium of placing the politicians in a benefice position compared to ordinary citizens of this country,” the bench added.

After the ED filed its affidavit, the AAP, in a press release, said a complaint was lodged with the Supreme Court’s registry since the affidavit was a “blatant disregard of legal procedures,” considering that the matter was already slated for a final decision in the top court on Friday.




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