‘Right to campaign not fundamental’, ED files affidavit in SC

New Delhi : A day before the Supreme Court is set to pronounce its order on the interim bail plea moved by incarcerated Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the excise policy case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday opposed the grant of interim relief saying that a politician can claim no “special status” higher than that of an ordinary citizen and is as much liable to be arrested and detained for committing offences as any other citizen.

The affidavit filed by ED’s Deputy Director stated that there is no principle that justifies giving differential treatment to a politician for campaigning over a farmer or a businessman who wishes to pursue his vocation.

“If the right to campaign is treated as a basis for grant of interim bail, it would breach the principles of Article 14 for the reason that harvesting for a farmer would be an equally important factor for seeking interim bail as would a board meeting or an annual general meeting for a director of a company who commits a crime, as these are their respective vocations or professions, ” read the affidavit.

The agency said that the right to campaign for elections is neither a fundamental right nor a constitutional right and not even a legal right.

No political leader has been granted interim bail for campaigning even though Kejriwal is not the contesting candidate, said the affidavit, adding that even a contesting candidate is not granted interim bail for his own campaigning if he is in custody.

Further, the ED contended that around 123 elections have taken place in the last five years and if interim bail is to be granted for campaigning, no politician can be arrested or sent to judicial custody since elections are all year-round phenomena.

“In a federal structure, no set of election is more significant than another and therefore, every politician at every level would argue that if he is not let out on interim bail, he would suffer irreversible consequences, ” read the affidavit.

On Wednesday, a bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna said that it will deliver its decision on the question of granting interim bail to Kejriwal on May 10.

Earlier, the bench, also comprising Justice Dipankar Datta, indicated that it may consider granting interim bail to the AAP leader in view of the ongoing general elections. It said this is an extraordinary situation and it is not that CM Kejriwal is a habitual offender.

The federal probe agency opposed the grant of interim relief, saying that it would set a wrong precedent and that politicians have no special rights as compared to normal citizens.

Kejriwal had moved the apex court against the Delhi High Court’s April 10 judgment, which dismissed his plea challenging the ED arrest.

The AAP chief was arrested on March 21 and has been in custody since then.

Meanwhile, Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court has extended Kejriwal’s judicial custody till May 20 on the expiry of his previously granted 14-day judicial remand.