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Indian court rejects plea against Delhi chief minister’s arrest 

The Aam Aadmi Party leader was arrested in an alleged liquor scam and is due to remain in custody until at least April 15  

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea from the Indian capital’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, over his arrest for alleged involvement in a liquor scam. The court ruled that the detention of the minister, who also leads the opposition Aam Admi Party (AAP), was valid and that evidence provided by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) points to Kejriwal being “actively involved” in hiding “the proceeds of crime.” 

Kejriwal was initially arrested by the ED on March 21. After spending ten days in custody, he was transferred to Tihar Jail in the Indian capital, where he is set to remain until April 15.  

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday stated that the ED possessed sufficient material to justify the arrest. Prior to his detention, Kejriwal had ignored several summonses sent to him by the agency.  

The court also rejected Kejriwal’s argument questioning the timing of his arrest just days before parliamentary elections, polling for which begins on April 19 and will continue till June 1. Dubbed the “largest democratic exercise in history,” the elections will see 970 million Indians cast their votes to elect 543 members of the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha). The results will be declared on June 4.  

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“This court is of the opinion that the accused has been arrested and his arrest and remand has to be examined as per law and not as per timing of elections,” Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said, as quoted by the Indian legal website Bar and Bench. It further contended that “political considerations cannot be brought before the court as they are not relevant.” 

India’s opposition parties have questioned the timing of Kejriwal’s arrest. The AAP is among the key members of the National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), an opposition bloc that seeks to challenge the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

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Several other senior leaders of the AAP party are currently detained in Tihar Jail, including Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia, former Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain, and Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) party member K Kavitha. On Tuesday, a Delhi court extended the judicial custody of Kavitha until April 23. Last week, AAP MP Sanjay Singh was released on bail after six months of imprisonment.  

All of them were arrested in the same case linked to a liquor policy for the capital, implemented in November 2021 and scrapped in July 2022 due to alleged irregularities that provided undue advantages to private retailers.  

Despite being in custody, Kejriwal remains chief minister of Delhi, which has the special status of a union territory under the constitution and has an elected legislative assembly and government. The AAP has insisted that Kejriwal will not resign despite his legal troubles, as he has been charged but not convicted in the case.

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April 09, 2024 at 08:59PM

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