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Kejriwal’s Extension of Bail Plea: Vacation Bench Refused Urgent Hearing, Referred to CJI

Kejriwal’s Extension of Bail Plea: Vacation Bench Refused Urgent Hearing, Referred to CJI

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 28: In a setback to the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, a Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up his urgent plea for the extension of his interim bail by a week for medical check-ups.

The vacation bench of Justices JK Maheshwari and KV Vishwanathan referred the plea to the Chief Justice DY Chandrachud to decide on the date when the application for the extension of the bail could be heard.

Arrested in March in an alleged money laundering case in connection with the Delhi liquor policy scam, Mr Kejriwal earlier this month was granted by the Supreme Court interim bail till June 1 to enable him to campaign in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. He has to surrender before the Tihar jail by June 2.

Mr Kejriwal on Monday had moved the Supreme Court for an extension of the interim bail by a week till June 9 to get him time to undergo certain medical check-ups before he returned to Tihar jail. But his hopes However, Mr Kejriwal’s hopes of an immediate hearing were dashed after a vacation bench said it would only forward his plea to Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, who will decide when it will be heard.

“The CJI will take an appropriate decision on listing this plea,” the bench said noting the verdict in the original case – Mr Kejriwal challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate – had been reserved after the last hearing on May 17. The vacation bench said on Tuesday that it could not intervene in an application filed in a case already reserved for judgment by another Bench of the court.

A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta had reserved judgment on the Delhi CM’s plea to quash his arrest by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) in the case charge-sheeted under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). While reserving the case for judgment on May 17, Justice Khanna’s Bench had given Mr Kejriwal liberty to apply for statutory bail under Section 45 of the PMLA.

On Tuesday the Vacation Bench told senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, who orally mentioned the application for extension of interim bail for urgent hearing, to approach the Chief Justice of India for “appropriate orders” for listing. We cannot do anything,” Justice Maheshwari addressed the senior counsel.

Mr Singhvi submitted the application was made on medical grounds and did not amount to an abuse of liberty. In his application seeking extension of time by a week, Mr Kejriwal had said he had to undergo a series of medical tests, including a PET-CT scan.

“In view of health complications and increased risk signs, a medical examination is necessary to protect him from possible long-term harm to during his prison term,” Mr Singhvi stressed, underlining the AAP leader will remain “visible and available in public” while out on bail.

“There is no risk of fleeing the legal process and conditions set by Supreme Court (for interim bail) have been followed…” Mr Kejriwal’s lawyer said. The medical examination Mr Singhvi referred to were ordered by a doctor from a private hospital in the national capital. Tests ordered include PET-CT scan of the whole body. These tests have to be done in an order and require approximately five to seven days to complete, the court was told.

But the court seemed a little put out by the timing of the bail extension plea, pointing out it could have been made last week, when Justice Dipankar Datta – who was part of the bench that granted Mr Kejriwal interim bail, was heading a Vacation Bench last week. Why did you not mention this…?” the court asked.

“There is no gain in saying that the General Elections to Lok Sabha is the most significant 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 Bench of Justices Khanna and Datta had observed in its interim bail order.

The court had barred Mr Kejriwal from visiting the Chief Minister’s office or the Delhi Secretariat. He was ordered not to sign any official files unless it was required and necessary for obtaining clearance or approval of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. He was also prohibited from making any comments with regard to his role in the liquor policy case.

The eight-page order on May 10 had rejected an argument by the prosecution agency, Directorate of Enforcement (ED), that releasing Mr Kejriwal on interim bail to canvas votes would create an impression among the public, worse still, a judicial precedent, that politicians were a separate class, higher in status than the ordinary citizen and immune from arrest. Every criminal would vie to be a politician, the ED had rued.

Mr Kejriwal is a diabetes patient and needs regular shots of insulin, supply of which in jail became a controversial topic after the AAP claimed he was deliberately deprived of the “life-saving” drug.

That row also reached the courts after Arvind Kejriwal criticised Tihar jail and ED officials for being “petty” and “politicising” his well-being. The probe agency responded by claiming the Chief Minister had deliberately consumed foods high in sugar – like mangoes and toffees, in alleged violation of a prescribed diet chart – to place his health at risk and establish grounds for medical bail.

In Tuesday’s hearing Mr Kejriwal referred again to jail officials’ “insensitive behaviour” and to his “unexplained weight loss,” which he called “a symptom of a life-threatening disease.” “My health condition is due partly to the insensitive behaviour of the prison authorities. One more week of bail will allow me to take stock of (possible) health complications,” he argued.

“My weight has fallen a lot… if a person’s weight falls by seven kg in a month without any reason, then it is a very serious problem. So the doctors have prescribed several tests…” Mr Kejriwal said.


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