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Delhi Liquor scam : Supreme Court grant Kejriwal Interim Bail Amidst Ongoing Investigations

Nidhi Rathore,

Vidyasthali Law College

Delhi Liquor scam : Supreme Court grant Kejriwal Interim Bail Amidst Ongoing Investigations

News of the season, the Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in the money laundering case related to the alleged liquor policy scam granted interim bail by the Supreme Court.

On 10th May, 2024 the Supreme Court division bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Dipenkar Datta, granted bail to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal but on the condition that he is from visiting of office of Chief Minister and Delhi Secretariat.In addition to this, the court also ordered CM Kejriwal to surrender on June 2.

The court also expressed their views that the power to grant interim bails are  generally exercised or utilised in several cases. Therefore, the court does not provide special treatment to the Chief Minister and this case is not case is not an exception.[i]

This interim order will be a big boost to the Aam Aadmi Party’s poll campaign as now they can do the election campaigns freely also the face of their party will be with them during the campaign on the seats which has partnered with Congress to contrast elections in Punjab and four seats in Delhi.

Kejriwal, the national convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party, who was arrested in 2024 for a liquor policy scam case dated on March 21st. Arvind Kejriwal has challenged the validity of his arrest made by the Enforcement Directorate. The Delhi High Court on 4th April 2024 upheld the arrest of the AAP commissioner, saying it was not illegal and that "small options"  following to the repeatedly skipped summons and refused to participate in investigation  related to irregularities in Delhi exercise policy 2021-2022.

Arguments Presented in the Supreme Court

The Supreme court has separated the main argument related to case into two sections to discuss Mr. Kejriwal's  detention. In his primary plea, he contended that the arrest done by Central Investigative Body (ED) is "illegal," and his secondary contention was for a temporary bail hearing in light of the ongoing or upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Arguments in favour of Arvind Kejriwal’s bail

Senior attorney Abhishek Manu Singhvi represented the Delhi chief minister at the SC, claiming that Kejriwal didn't need to be arrested. Singhvi further questioned Kejriwal's arrest's timing, pointing out that he was detained in March 2024 even though the ED supposedly used all of the condemnatory statements he had made to support his detention between December 2022 and July 2023. Singhvi asked the bench to grant interim bail until 4th or 6th June, when the election results are announced.

Enforcement Directorate opposes the Kejriwal’s bail

ED on Thursday filed an affidavit to the Supreme Court opposing Arvind Kejriwal's petition, stating that the law is equal to everyone and the Lok Sabha poll motion is not a fundamental, constitutional or legal right.

Political leaders have never been granted bail for election campaigns, according to the investigating agency, and releasing Mr. Kejriwal from jail would be a bad precedent for AAP candidates.

According to ED's affidavit, the court determined that the law applies uniformly to all individuals and entities, including the state, when considering the bail application of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.Kejriwal said that he had requested temporary bail primarily because he was campaigning in the Lok Sabha elections, adding, "It is important to note that the right to campaign is neither a fundamental right, nor a constitutional right, nor a legal right.[ii]"

The agency also argued that in last 5 years there have been 123 elections conducted in the country , and if Mr. Kejriwal is granted temporary bail for the election campaign, then no politicians cannot be placed in judicial custody during elections.

ED repeated the arguments he made at the previous hearing, saying that the election campaign is part of the work of politicians and in accordance with equality rules, small farmers and small traders can also fulfil their temporary bail requests.

The agency said granting bail to the Delhi chief minister would allow "all unscrupulous politicians" to commit crimes and then evade investigations by referring to one election or another election campaign[iii].

Supreme court’s decision on Arvind Kejriwal’s bail

In the last hearing, the Supreme Court had said that it did not consider whether the complainant was a politician or not. He said the focus of the bench, led by Judge Sanjiv Khanna, was whether there were exceptional circumstances that required temporary bail or not.[iv]

The Supreme Court also told that Arvind Kejriwal is the elected and respected chief minister of Delhi. He is not a habitual criminal. The Bench also questioned the Enforcement Directorate  why it has been taken two whole years to act against the Chief Minister and his party.

On 10th May bench agreed to permit Kejriwal's interim bail until 6th June 2024,  days after the Lok Sabha elections end. Dismissing the claim of the Enforcement Directorate that the CM Kejriwal's temporary release would place politicians in a position of "profit" relative to other people and it could lead to do the same things by other politicians also, the Supreme Court stated that it "always takes into account the situations related to the person around him." The Court also expressed his views that the general election was "of enormous importance”. So, it can be a basis for temporary bail.

References

[i] Ashish Tripathi, Supreme Court grants interim bail to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal till June 1, (May 10, 2024), https://www.deccanherald.com/india/delhi/supreme-court-gives-interim-bail-to-delhi-cm-arvind-kejriwal-till-june-1-3017056.

[ii]V Venkatesan, With interim bail for Arvind Kejriwal, Supreme Court balances legal process with democratic principles, Frontline (May 10, 2024), https://frontline.thehindu.com/news/supreme-court-interim-bail-arvind-kejriwal-ed-delhi-liquor-policy-lok-sabha-elections/article68161093.ece

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