Rajat Sharma


AKB30 Day after the Delhi High Court rejected Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s petition challenging his arrest, his advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appealed to the Chief Justice of India for an early hearing of his petition challenging the HC verdict. The CJI, on Wednesday, promised “to look into it”. On Tuesday, Justice Swarna Kanta Sharma of Delhi HC in a 106-page judgment noted that the Enforcement Directorate had sufficient evidence “at this stage which points out towards the guilt” of Kejriwal for the commission of offence of money laundering in the Delhi excise policy case. The High Court said, “he is allegedly involved in two capacities – in his personal capacity as he was involved in the formulation of the policy and in demanding kickbacks; And as the national convenor of AAP… for the use of the proceeds of crime.” Justice Sharma noted that Kejriwal skipped nine summons and his non-cooperation impacted the progress of the probe and necessitated his arrest. The High Court verdict clearly said, “Kejriwal had allegedly conspired with other persons and was involved in the formulation of Delhi excise policy 2021-22, in the process of demanding kickbacks from the South Group, as well as in generation, use and concealment of proceeds of crime.” The judge said that there was prima facie evidence to suggest that Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party received kickbacks up to Rs 100 crore from the South liquor lobby, and that a portion of this, nearly Rs 45 crore, was used by the party during the Goa assembly elections in 2022. The verdict said, “It emerges from the records produced before this court, i.e. the statements of witnesses recorded by the Directorate of Enforcement, including the hawala operators as well as survey workers, area managers, assembly managers etc engaged by AAP, corroborated with CDR analysis and material seized during IT raids, that amount of Rs 45 crore, which is allegedly the proceeds of crime in this case, was utilised by AAP in the Goa elections.” Rejecting the plea against the arrest on the eve of general elections, the High Court said, “Political considerations and equations cannot be brought to court of law as it is irrelevant….Judges are bound by law and not by political considerations.” On Wednesday, BJP supporters staged protest in Delhi demanding early resignation of Arvind Kejriwal as chief minister. After going through the lengthy verdict of Delhi High Court, it appears that Kejriwal’s early release from Tihar jail may be difficult. He may have to stay inside jail for a longer period, because the High Court verdict clearly says that Kejriwal was involved in the liquor scam and his party took kickbacks and used the money in Goa elections. Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party leaders can no more say that this case is politically motivated. They cannot claim that ED has prepared a fake case and has taken statements from witnesses under duress, and that since no money has been recovered, nor any concrete evidence of Kejriwal’s role has been recovered, his arrest was made with the sole aim of keeping him away from elections. The High Court on Tuesday rejected all such insinuations. The High Court clearly said that Kejriwal was “actively involved” in the matter and the beneficiary was Aam Aadmi Party. This means, the recognition given to AAP by Election Commission of India as a national political party can now be questioned. It is true that the trial court will finally decide who committed the crime, whether any person was corrupt or not, but this is not the case of a single crime. It is connected to a political party, a government, and a leader, who was trying to project himself as a national alternative. I feel Kejriwal did not handle this case properly right from Day One when he got the first summons from ED. He should have shown courage and presented himself before the ED. He could have told ED, like NCP chief Sharad Pawar that he was prepared to face questioning and that he was not afraid of any probe. In that case, the investigating agency could have given a second thought before arresting him. But Kejriwal challenged each summons by sending ‘love letters’ to ED questioning its locus standi. He evaded the summons nine times, and his evasion gave the impression that something is fishy (daal me kuch kaala hai). The impression went around that Kejriwal was afraid of facing the ED. Aam Aadmi Party remained on the offensive from the day Kejriwal was arrested. The party described the entire case as fake, claimed that not a single paisa was recovered and that the witnesses gave statements under duress fearing BJP. Tuesday’s High Court verdict has rubbished all such insinuations. Aam Aadmi Party’s argument was that all the allegations were made by witnesses who later turned approvers, and that these approvers were hand in gloves with the BJP. The High Court on Tuesday said, the turning of witnesses as approvers was a correct legal process, and their statements were accepted. The only last resort left for Kejriwal is the Supreme Court. The apex court had released Sanjay Singh in this case. One must differentiate between the two. In Sanjay Singh’s case the High Court had only made observations, while in Kejriwal’s case, the High Court gave its judgment. That is why, I have said, early release from jail for Kejriwal may not be easy.

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