Delhi CM Kejriwal remanded in ED custody till March 28

NEW DELHI — Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was on Friday remanded in six-day Enforcement Directorate custody ending March 28 by a local court, a day after the probe agency arrested him in connection with the excise policy case, PTI reported.

The central agency, which had arrested Kejriwal on Thursday evening, produced him before the Delhi court at 2pm on Friday, where it described him as “the kingpin and key conspirator” in the alleged liquor scam case and sought a 10-day custody.

Special Judge Kaveri Baweja at the Rouse Avenue court granted a six-day custody, and asked the agency to produce Kejriwal before the court on March 28, at 2pm.

During the hearing, the ED claimed that the AAP was a “major beneficiary” of the proceeds of crimes generated from the alleged liquor scam.

It claimed that Kejriwal was directly involved in the formation of the Delhi excise policy 2021-22 — which was scrapped last year. The agency also alleged that Kejriwal got kickbacks from “South group” for formulating and implementing the excise policy.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju, who appeared for the ED, told the court that Kejriwal demanded Rs 100 crore from the “South group” for contesting the Punjab elections.

He said the AAP is not an individual but a company, and every person responsible for the conduct of the company will be held responsible.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, who was representing Kejriwal, said this is the first time in the history of India that a sitting chief minister has been arrested.

The power of arrest is not equal to the need of arrest and there was no necessity of arresting this man, he said.

The ED also accused Kejriwal of utilising the “proceeds of crime” in the Goa Assembly polls, amounting to Rs 45 crore which came from four ‘hawala’ routes, by the AAP, of which “he is the convenor and the ultimate decision maker”.

It said kickbacks were allegedly generated by the “South Group” members, that includes arrested Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader K Kavitha and some others.

AAP workers, and that of other constituents of the INDIA block, protested Kejriwal’s arrest at several places across the country.

Congress’ Jairam Ramesh termed Kejriwal’s arrest as “vendetta politics”. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and others too criticised Kejriwal’s arrest.

Leaders of the bloc also knocked at the Election Commission’s door, submitting a memorandum that asked the poll panel to “ensure a level playing field” for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

They flagged Kejriwal’s arrest, the “freezing” of the Congress’ bank accounts, the arrest of former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren and “multiple examples of the targeting of the Trinamool Congress” to ask the EC to intervene.

Sources in the Opposition bloc said Kejriwal’s arrest galvanised the parties in the alliance, with the Congress, the Trinamool and the Left burying their differences, including the recent ones over seat sharing, to protest his arrest in one voice.

The AAP said it will gherao the Prime Minister’s residence on March 26. It also announced a series of protests its workers will undertake over the next few days.

Legal experts said Kejriwal could continue as Delhi’s CM since he was not convicted. However, it would be difficult to run a government while he is in ED or judicial custody.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh said, “Legally, there is no bar (for Kejriwal to continue as Delhi’s CM). But it will be next to impossible administratively.”

According to the Representation of the People Act, a lawmaker is disqualified if convicted and sentenced to two years or above in jail.

AAP strategists, meanwhile, feared central rule in Delhi. They hoped that Kejriwal would soon get bail and prepared for the second rung leadership of the party, such as Sandeep Pathak, Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj, to step up and lead the party’s protests and the AAP’s Lok Sabha preparation.

There are concerns in the party about a leadership vacuum with three of its topmost leaders, Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh in jail.

Earlier in the day, Kejriwal withdrew his bail application from the Supreme Court after the apex court denied Kavitha’s bail application, asking her to approach a trial court.