Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will have to spend more time behind bars as the Delhi High Court on Tuesday rejected his petition against arrest on the grounds that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has “enough material” on the AAP convenor’s alleged role in the liquor policy money laundering case.

Delhi Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj said Kejriwal would approach the Supreme Court as they did not agree with the Delhi High Court’s verdict against the Delhi Chief Minister.

“The court is of the view that the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal was not in contravention of legal provisions. The remand can’t be held to be illegal,” said Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma. The judge read out the judgement in the court for about 25 minutes to explain key aspects of not agreeing with Kejriwal’s defence.

Legal Verdict

The Delhi CM did not seek bail but challenged his arrest on March 21 and his subsequent remand to the ED custody, after he did not appear before investigators overlooking nine summons issued to him in the liquor policy case.

Representing the ED in the case, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju said, “Today the judge gave the judgement after seeing all the evidence and the court also said that money trail has been found. Court has done justice today and the court said that the arrest is legal.”

The court also did not consider one of its key submissions of Kejriwal on the timing of his arrest before the Lok Sabha elections. “Political considerations can’t be brought before a court of law... the matter before this court is not a conflict between the central government and Arvind Kejriwal. It is a case between Arvind Kejriwal and the ED,” Justice Sharma said.

The court emphasised that the law applied equally to every citizen and the courts were concerned with only constitutional morality. The agency too had argued in the court that law applied equally to a common man and a Chief Minister.

The Judge also did not accept the argument Kejriwal himself made in the court doubting approvers’ statement in the case. To doubt grant of pardon to an accused, given on the condition to offer full disclosure in the case, “amounts to casting aspersions on the judicial process”. Justice Sharma stated, “the law is over 100 years old... it is not a one-year-old law falsely enacted to implicate the petitioner”.

Political Fallout

The court was of the view that the statements of approvers against the Chief Minister would be judged during the trial and that it could not hold a mini-trial at this stage. The Judge stated that Kejriwal would be free to cross-examine the approvers during the trial

The AAP convenor is lodged in ‘Jail No 2’ of Tihar Jail after the Special PMLA court sent him to judicial custody in April on the expiry of ED custody.

Meanwhile, Delhi Minister Atishi claimed that Kejriwal would walk out of jail ”in a day if he were to join the BJP”. “If Arvind Kejriwal joins the BJP like Himanta Biswa Sarma, he would be freed from jail within a day. But Kejriwal is a fighter. He will not surrender before BJP’s pressure tactics and will continue to serve the people of Delhi, Punjab and Assam irrespective of whether he is in jail,” the AAP leader, who is campaigning in Assam, said.

Reacting to the judgement, BJP national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla said that AAP has lost the ploy to play the victimhood card over the Delhi CM’s arrest. “Today’s order against Kejriwal exposes that he is not staunchly honest but he is completely corrupt. There is prima facie material available against him, evidence available against him. He not only formulated the said policy but he was involved in taking kickbacks…,” he said.