Delhi High Court denies urgent hearing of Arvind Kejriwal’s plea challenging arrest

The Delhi High Court has denied urgent listing of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s plea challenging his arrest and custody by the Enforcement Directorate in the excise policy case, reported Bar and Bench on Saturday.

Kejriwal was arrested by the central law enforcement agency on Thursday. On Friday, a Delhi court sent him to the Enforcement Directorate’s custody​ till March 28.

The Aam Aadmi Party chief moved the High Court on Saturday, after withdrawing a Supreme Court petition challenging his arrest.

The High Court is likely to hear the matter on March 27, the first working day after two holidays for Holi.

In his petition, Kejriwal has argued that both his arrest and a lower court’s remand order are illegal, reported India Today. He said he is entitled to be released immediately. The Enforcement Directorate had claimed in the Rouse Avenue Court on Friday that there was sufficient material to conclude that Kejriwal is prima facie guilty.

CM’s office may function from jail

Aam Aadmi Party leader and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said on Saturday that if Kejriwal is sent to jail, the party will approach the court for permission to set up his office in prison, reported PTI.

“It is not written anywhere that a government cannot run from jail,” said Mann. “The law says he can work from jail till found guilty. We will seek permission from the Supreme Court and High Court for setting up an office in the jail and the [Delhi] government will function.”

When asked about the effect of Kejriwal’s arrest on the party’s campaigning activities for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, Mann said that no one can take the Delhi chief minister’s place.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi unit chief Virendra Sachdeva, MPs Manoj Tiwari and Harsh Vardhan along with several others demanded Kejriwal’s resignation as the chief minister during a sit-in protest, according to Hindustan Times.

“We have heard that gangs are run from jails, but this is the first time that people are watching the government being run from the jail,” said Tiwari at the protest.

Earlier in the day, Sunita Kejriwal, former Indian Revenue Service officer and the Delhi chief minister’s wife, read out a message from her husband on social media.

In the statement, the Aam Aadmi Party chief said he would continue to work for the betterment of the country from inside the jail. “There is no jail that can keep me behind bars for long,” he said.

Sunita Kejriwal also quoted the chief minister as saying: “Do not hate the people from the BJP. They are all our brothers and sisters.”

Liquor policy case

The Enforcement Directorate’s case is based on a first information report registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation alleging irregularities in the Delhi government’s now-scrapped liquor excise policy.

The policy came into effect in November 2021. It was withdrawn on July 30, 2022, with Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommending an investigation into the alleged irregularities of the policy.

The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate have alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party government modified Delhi’s liquor excise policy to ensure a 12% profit margin for wholesalers and a nearly 185% profit margin for retailers.

The Enforcement Directorate has also claimed that members of a “South Group” had paid at least Rs 100 crore in kickbacks to leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party through businessman Vijay Nair, who is currently in jail.

Hours before Kejriwal’s arrest on Thursday, electoral bond data released by the Election Commission showed a company linked to another person accused in the same case, P Sarath Chandra Reddy, had donated Rs 5 crore to the BJP in 2022, just five days after he was taken in custody. Another Rs 25 crore was donated to the BJP after Reddy turned approver in the case.

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