Arvind Kejriwal ED

Preparations Underway To Arrest Him: AAP’s Bharadwaj

Arvind Kejriwal ED

After an ED team arrived at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence on Thursday late evening for questioning in connection with the liquor policy case, AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj claimed that preparations were underway to arrest him.

Speaking to reporters as police personnel massed outside Kejriwal’s residence in the national capital, Bhardwaj said, “The way the police personnel went inside his residence, not allowing anyone else to go in, it seems that the CM is being raided. It also indicates that preparations are afoot to arrest him.”

Labelling the ED as the BJP’s ‘political team’, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said while the AAP national convenor could be put behind bars, his ideas cannot.

Posting from his official X handle amid the dramatic developments outside Kejriwal’s residence on Thursday evening, the Punjab CM stated, “BJP’s political team (ED) cannot put Kejriwal’s ideology behind bars. It is only the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that can stop the BJP. Thoughts and ideas can never be suppressed.”

Meanwhile, according to sources, Kejriwal’s legal team has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court order earlier in the day, denying him interim relief in the excise policy case.

Sources said Kejriwal’s legal team was making an effort to ensure urgent listing of the matter in the apex court.

Denying him interim protection from arrest in the liquor policy case, the Delhi HC ruled that at this state, it was not inclined to do so.

The court passed down the directive during the hearing on a plea by the AAP supremo, urging coercive action against him in connection with the excise policy case.

The bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Manoj Jain passed an interim order on his petition, with the main matter listed for July 22.

During the hearing, senior advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Kejriwal, submitted that the summons issued under Section 50 do not even reveal whether the person summoned is a witness, suspect or accused.

He said his client was apprehending arrest “for political purposes”.

“What prevented you from arresting him, and why are you issuing summonses back-to-back?” the court also asked ED during the arguments.

To that, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju replied that the agency never said they would arrest him.

“The power is there. (However) You come to join the investigation, we may or may not arrest you,” Raju said.

The Additional Solicitor General opposed the plea for interim protection from arrest on maintainability grounds, submitting that the petition was seeking to quash and set aside all proceedings qua the petitioner in the capacity of his being national convener of a political party.

“But here, AAP has not been made an accused yet and the fact that he’s challenged means that his figment of imagination can’t lead to a grant of relief. A person or entity that has not been made an accused can’t seek to strike down a provision,” Raju said.

On Wednesday, during the hearing in a related matter at the Delhi High Court, Kejriwal’s lawyers stated that they have apprehension that the ED will arrest him, adding that he was ready to appear if he was given protection.

Kejriwal, through his plea, sought the declaration of Section (2) (s) OF PMLA to be ultravires, unconstitutional and arbitrary insofar it is construed to include a political party within its ambit and sweep.

Kejriwal’s plea stated that the present petition is being filed in extremely urgent and emergent circumstances where such arbitrary procedure under PMLA is sought to be employed “to create a non-level playing field for the impending general elections scheduled to be held from April 19, 2024, and to skew the electoral process in the favour of the ruling party at the Centre that controls the ED through the Ministry of Finance”.

The ED on Sunday issued two fresh summonses to Kejriwal in two separate cases–the liquor policy case and another linked to the Delhi Jal Board.

The latest summons to the AAP supremo by the ED was the ninth in connection with a money laundering probe related to irregularities in the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 case. He was asked to appear before the central agency for questioning on March 21.

The fresh summons to the Delhi Chief Minister followed the eighth summons, which he had skipped on March 4.

Last week, the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Rouse Avenue Court granted bail to Arvind Kejriwal on two complaints filed by ED for non-compliance with summons issued by the agency. During the hearing, Kejriwal appeared physically before the court.

According to the ED, the agency wants to record Kejriwal’s statement in the case on issues like the formulation of policy, meetings held before it was finalized, and allegations of bribery.

In its sixth charge sheet filed in the case on December 2, 2023, naming AAP leader Sanjay Singh and his aide Sarvesh Mishra, the ED claimed that the AAP used kickbacks worth Rs 45 crore generated via the policy as part of its assembly elections campaign in Goa in 2022.

The now-scrapped excise policy was aimed “at revitalizing the city’s flagging liquor business” and replacing a sales-volume-based regime with a licence fee for traders.

Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena had ordered a probe into alleged irregularities in the policy. AAP has accused Saxena’s predecessor, Anil Baijal, of sabotaging the move with a few last-minute changes that resulted in lower-than-expected revenues.

Two senior AAP leaders, Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh, are in judicial custody in the case. Sisodia, who was the then Delhi Deputy Chief Minister, was arrested by the CBI on February 26 following several rounds of questioning. On October 5, ED arrested Sanjay Singh, who is a Rajya Sabha member. (ANI)

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