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Indian opposition leader’s bail turned down moments before release

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief Minister and leader of Aam Aadmi Party, has been in custody over an alleged liquor scam

The Delhi High Court on Friday suspended a trial court order which had granted bail a day earlier to Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of India’s national capital region, who leads the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). 

Kejriwal was arrested in March, weeks before the general elections begin in the country, on corruption charges in an alleged liquor scam linked to excise policy. The politician has not been convicted – hearings in the case continue while Kejriwal remains acting Chief Minister of the capital region. 

On Thursday, a trial court ordered Kejriwal’s release on a personal bond of 100,000 rupees (around $1,200). Conditions for this included not interfering with the investigation or influencing witnesses in the case. 

However, hours after bail was awarded, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), a domestic economic intelligence agency, moved the High Court to oppose the possibility of bail. The final order is expected to be announced early next week, Indian media reported. 

Hours before Kejriwal walked out, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), a federal financial-crime fighting agency that had initially arrested him in March, challenged his bail.

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The INDIA bloc’s Loktantra Bachao rally at the Ramlila ground, New Delhi, India, March 31, 2024.
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The trial court which granted bail to the CM, had earlier observed that the ED failed to give direct evidence linking Kejriwal to the “proceeds of crime” and failed to establish his guilt. The ED, however, claimed that the bail was awarded without granting it an adequate opportunity for presenting its arguments. 

Kejriwal was arrested in connection with corruption allegations related to Delhi’s now-scrapped liquor policy. The ED alleges Kejriwal received kickbacks from liquor sellers, which he used to fund the party’s election efforts in southern India’s Goa.

The opposition leader has denied the allegations and claims he is being persecuted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Notably, Kejriwal was granted temporary bail by the Supreme Court of India in May – to conduct election campaigning amid the recently concluded general election. He returned back to custody on June 2, a day after the last phase of polling concluded. 

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Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and chief minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal gestures during a press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi on May 11, 2024, a day after being release on bail by India's top court.
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The Kejriwal-led AAP is a part of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), the opposition bloc that defied expectations by grabbing over 200 seats in the 543-member Lower House.

The BJP, despite losing a clear majority, was able to form the coalition government with the help of its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Members of the INDIA alliance claimed the arrest was an attempt by the Modi government to deny a level playing field to the opposition. After Kejriwal’s bail was denied, senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a “mockery” of the justice system.

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June 22, 2024 at 09:14AM
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