Double whammy: After ED, CBI arrests Kejriwal in excise policy

The CBI arrested Delhi CM Kejriwal on June 26 after questioning him a day earlier at Tihar Jail in an alleged corruption case relating to the Delhi excise policy after his release on bail was stayed by the Delhi HC. The CM’s lawyer has accused CBI of abusing the process of law, writes Mudit Mathur

Before the apex court could hear the Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s petition challenging the stay order passed by the Delhi High Court in an alleged money laundering case, the Rouse Avenue court of Special Judge, Amitabh Rawat remanded him to CBI custody for three days on June 26 after heated arguments over the legality of his arrest.

The agency arrested Kejriwal after questioning him a day earlier in Tihar Jail in an alleged corruption case relating to the Delhi excise policy after his release was stayed. Kejriwal was arrested in an alleged money laundering case on March 21 by the Enforcement Directorate, a few months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

While granting remand, Judge Rawat, however, held that the arrest was not illegal and that the agency should not be “overzealous.” “The timing may be circumspect but it is not the clear criterion for declaring an arrest illegal,” he observed.

An offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act is non-bailable and cognizable where an arrest can be made without a warrant. Since Kejriwal was already in judicial custody in the ED matter, the CBI required the court’s nod to arrest him.

Special Public Prosecutor D P Singh, representing the CBI, had a heated exchange with Kejriwal during the hearing where he was produced by CBI in its custody. He reacted to his description that “Kejriwal had said privatisation of the liquor trade was an idea of the then Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia,” and clarified that “CBI sources have planted something in the media. I have not given any statement that Sisodia is responsible (for the excise policy). Yesterday, I told the CBI that neither AAP is responsible nor Sisodia.”

“You said it was Sisodia’s idea,” Singh insisted. “I didn’t say that,” Kejriwal replied, adding that the CBI was spreading such news for “sensational headlines”.

“Maine aisa koi bayan nahi diya hai ki Manish Sisodia doshi hai. Manish Sisodia nirdosh hai, AAP nirdosh hai, mein nirdosh hoon. Unka saara plan hai hume media mein badnam karne ka. CBI ke sources ne chalwaya (I never gave any statement that Manish Sisodia is guilty. Manish Sisodia is innocent, AAP is innocent, I am innocent. They aim to malign us in the media. CBI sources ran this),” he said.

“Inka idea ye hai ki kal front page pe top headline honi chahiye ki Kejriwal ne saara thekra Manish Sisodia pe foda. They are sensationalising the issue. Ye kal top headline hogi har akhba rmein. Inka aaj kewal ye maqsad hi hai (Their idea is to ensure that the front-page headline says Kejriwal has put all blame on Manish Sisodia. They want this headline in all newspapers. That is their sole aim today),” he said.“They asked me whose idea it was. I just said it wasn’t mine,” Kejriwal added.

Judge Rawat interceded and told the CM: “Aap ki statement maine padh li hai… Aisa kuch nahi kaha hai aapne (I have read your statement; you made no such remark).”

Special Public Prosecutor Singh said, “The evidence shows that the report compiled by the South Group was taken as the report of the group of ministers who were responsible for the excise policy. … Even before the policy was notified, the process began to find people to whom it will suit.”“Notification of the policy was done with haste… There was no meeting called. The CM was at the helm of affairs,” he said, adding that the investigation had uncovered a money trail of Rs 45 crore which was allegedly used by the AAP in the 2022 Goa Assembly elections.

Opposing the CBI remand, Senior Advocate Vikram Chaudhari, appearing for Kejriwal, contended that the CBI has acted in a prejudiced manner. The investigation of the case has been pending since August 2022. Chaudhari stated that Kejriwal was called as a witness once to which he cooperated, and never as an accused. He said that without any notice, the CBI made him an accused in the case. “It is the grossest abuse of process of law. They were waiting till I get bail in PMLA case,” he added.