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SC Asks ED Questions on Timing of Kejriwal’s Arrest, Answer on Friday

SC Asks ED Questions on Timing of Kejriwal’s Arrest, Answer on Friday

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 30: Timing of arrest of the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal by the Enforcement Directorate just before the beginning of the Lok Sabha elections became a focal point in the Supreme Court on Tuesday while hearing a petition challenging his arrest in a money laundering case connected with the alleged Delhi liquor policy scam.

A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta while underlining that “life and liberty were exceedingly important” asked the central agency to address arguments on the “timing” of the APP supremo’s arrest right before Lok Sabha elections and directed its advocates to come prepared to answer the question during the next hearing on the matter on May 3.

During the proceedings, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi contended that no “proceeds of crime” have been recovered so far by the ED and that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, (PMLA) envisages a high threshold for arrest. He reiterated that mere non-cooperation could not be a ground for Mr Kejriwal’s incarceration by the law enforcement agency.

On the other hand, the ED in its affidavit filed before the top Court argued that arresting politicians who are “criminals” was not a blow against free and fair elections.

Explaining the reason behind why the question of the timing of the arrest arose, Justice Sanjeev Khanna told the ED to make it clear whether the central agency can take up criminal proceedings without having gone through judicial proceedings in the case.

The Bench asked Additional Solicitor General SV Raju to reply on the question of the timing of the arrest. “No attachment action has been taken so far in this case, and if it has been done, then show how Kejriwal is involved in the matter,” Justice Khanna said. “Tell me, why the arrest before the general elections?” he said.

The Supreme Court noted that in the matter linked to former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, the investigators have claimed they have found material, but in Mr Kejriwal’s case nothing has been brought up. The Supreme Court told the ED to explain why there has been such a huge gap between the beginning of proceedings and the arrest. The court then ordered the ED to respond on Friday.

Mr Kejriwal, who has decided to continue as Chief Minister from jail, is being kept in Delhi’s Tihar under judicial custody after his arrest on March 21. The Supreme Court had issued notice to ED on April 15 and sought its response to Mr Kejriwal’s challenge against his arrest.

On April 9, the Delhi High Court upheld Mr Kejriwal’s arrest, saying there was no illegality and the ED was left with “little option” after he skipped summons and refused to join the investigation. The Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) election campaign is being managed by party leaders Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj, along with other senior party colleagues. Mr Kejriwal’s wife Sunita has also joined in reaching out to her husband’s supporters.

Addressing the ED, Justice Khanna says – “You have to address us on the timing of his (Kejriwal’s) arrest before the elections.” SC questions the continuous flow of complaints from the initiation of proceedings. It notes that Section 8 of the PMLA requires investigation to be completed at the most in 365 days

SC notes that Section 19 of the PMLA casts a fairly high onus on the prosecution. Hence, the accused is not opting for bail, because then he will have to convince the judge that he is not guilty. SC asks ED which facts of Manish Sisodia’s case are relevant to Kejriwal’s case. “Life and liberty are very important. We cannot deny that”, Justice Khanna asserts.

Singhvi argues that “proceeds of crime” need to be interpreted strictly by the Court. He says that the possession of unaccounted property acquired by illegal means may be actionable for tax violation, but not necessarily under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. He asserted that no statement under section 50 of the PMLA act had been taken so far.

Referring to approver Raghav Magunta and his father Ongole MP Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy, Singhvi said, “Please read between the lines. He and his father are now contesting elections. Farce going on as far as far as approvership is concerned.”

“On Goa elections, ED says funds for campaigning were sent to the AAP national convenor. It does not say crime proceeds came through Kejriwal,” Singhvi argues. The senior counsel asserts that prima facie there is a lack of clarity about the involvement of the Delhi CM. “No proceeds of crime found in his (Kejriwal) possession. They are using the same statements given in 2023”, he added.

Highlighting the circumstances in which bail was secured by the approvers in the case, Singhvi pointed out, “ED objects to Sarath Reddy’s interim bail even after his family member is learnt to be sick. Then he gives statements in favour of ED. Regular bail is granted. ED objects to the interim bail of Raghav Magunta. Later, ED has suddenly no objection.” “Opposition turns to benevolence”, he adds.

Mr Singhvi said MP Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy (MSR) was forced to make a statement against the Delhi chief minister in lieu of bail to his son Raghav. He said MSR broke down due to his son’s continuous incarceration and gave a statement to implicate Arvind Kejriwal.

Singhvi claimed MSR contradicted his earlier statement, and the very next day, Raghav was granted bail. Singhvi pointed out that Arvind Kejriwal’s aide Vijay Nair was accused of receiving kickbacks. He was arrested in November 2022. Kejriwal was arrested in March 2024. “No explanation for not arresting during this time,” he said.

“Raghav initially made no allegation…his wife attempted suicide. He sought interim bail, and the special judge dismissed. His maternal grandmother fell, was in the ICU. The Delhi high court granted him interim bail. ED challenged it. After Raghav’s father made the statement, the Enforcement Directorate refused to object to his bail.

“Please read between lines…Farce is going on as far as approvership is concerned,” Singhvi added.

Mr Singhvi argued that the ED “have to demonstrate the necessity of arrest based on material available with the investigating agency,” Singhvi said. “ED’s power to arrest is not an obligation to arrest. There must be a reason to believe, there has to be some new material or a link that connects Kejriwal directly or something. They arrested him (Kejriwal) after the model code of conduct was in place. He was neither accused nor suspect till March 2024,” he added.




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