April 25, 2024

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal comes out of the Rouse Avenue Court, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 28, 2024. (Photo: PTI)

The Delhi High Court deferred its ruling on a petition lodged by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal challenging his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with an alleged money-laundering case linked to the purported excise policy scam, on Wednesday.

“I am going to reserve judgement,” stated Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma following deliberations with the senior counsel representing the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and the agency.

Arvind Kejriwal, currently held in judicial custody, was represented by senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi.

Singhvi raised concerns about the “timing” of the Delhi chief minister’s detention. He argued that the arrest violated the basic structure of the Constitution, including the principles of free and fair elections and a level playing field.

Represented by Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, the ED rebuffed the petition, asserting that the offence of money laundering was prima facie established in this instance and that the investigation against the petitioner was still in its nascent stage. The ASG further refuted allegations of bias levelled against the ED, stressing that their case was founded on evidence.

The agency’s senior counsel clarified that the petition specifically contested the initial remand order, which detained Kejriwal in the agency’s custody until March 28, and not subsequent orders.

What is the Delhi excise policy case?

In November 2021, the Delhi government, led by Arvind Kejriwal, introduced a new excise policy aimed at modernising alcohol sales in the city.  Less than a year later, in July 2022, Delhi’s Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar reported policy violations to Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Vinai Kumar Saxena, who recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry. The report alleged “financial losses to the exchequer” exceeding Rs 580 crore.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) asserted that the policy was deliberately designed with loopholes to favour AAP leaders. The ED contended that the “scam” entailed awarding wholesale liquor businesses to private entities with a guaranteed margin of 12 per cent, in exchange for a six per cent kickback.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest

The ED apprehended Kejriwal on March 21 after the high court refused to grant him protection from arrest.

On March 27, the court dismissed interim relief for Kejriwal, highlighting the significance of the issues raised, which necessitated thorough examination in consultation with the agency. The court directed the ED to present its response to the challenge regarding the arrest and subsequent remand in the ED’s custody.

Following his appearance in the trial court at the expiration of ED custody, Kejriwal was remanded to judicial custody in the case on April 1.

First Published: Apr 03 2024 | 6:33 PM IST