In a series of happenings with many turns and twists on Friday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the Supreme Court to hear his case against his arrest on charges of corruption in an excise policy case, only to suddenly withdraw from the top court shortly after judges agreed to reconvene a Special Bench for him.

The Aam Aadmi Party’s legal team had rushed to the Supreme Court late on Thursday within moments of Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) arrest of Kejriwal. The party leaders had tweeted that their lawyers were pushing for a hearing the same night. However, the Chief Minister spent the night in ED custody with no word from the Supreme Court.

Urgent hearing

On Friday morning, senior advocate AM Singhvi, for Kejriwal, requested Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud for an urgent hearing as the court would be closed for Holi holidays the whole of next week. March 22 is the last working day before vacations.

But the Chief Justice advised Singhvi to rush next door to the courtroom of Justice Sanjiv Khanna, who was at the time heading the Special Bench which was hearing a separate petition filed by Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) MLA K Kavitha to quash her recent arrest by the ED in the same excise policy case.

Minutes later Singhvi and his team of lawyers reached Justice Khanna’s court, only to find that the Special Bench had risen after refusing Kavitha’s plea to entertain her plea for bail.

When Justice Khanna returned in a two-judge Bench combination with Justice Dipankar Datta, Singhvi told the court what had transpired in the Chief Justice’s courtroom.

Regular list

Justice Khanna eventually agreed to reconvene the earlier Special Bench of himself, Justices MM Sundresh and Bela M Trivedi after his regular list of cases of the day was over.

Barely an hour later, Singhvi reappeared in J. Khanna’s court, this time with a request to allow him to withdraw the petition and try his luck before the Rouse Avenue Magistrate before whom Kejriwal was scheduled to be produced at 2 pm on Friday.

The court permitted him to withdraw the petition. A few minutes later, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the ED, also made an oral mentioning, saying he wanted to clear the air regarding what Singhvi said.

Clear instructions

Mehta said he had earlier given clear instructions to the ED officers not to produce Kejriwal before the Magistrate as the Chief Minister’s petition was pending in the apex court. He indicated that the ED would have waited for the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing.

However, Mehta said and Justice Khanna agreed that with the Chief Minister withdrawing his petition from the apex court, the coast was clear to produce Mr. Kejriwal before the Magistrate at 2 pm.

The issues which may eventually come up in the case of Kejriwal, the first Chief Minister who was arrested while in office, would include whether he could continue to be in the post behind bars.

Parties across the spectrum have condemned the arrest as politically motivated with the ED being used by the Central regime as a tool to crush the Opposition.

Kejriwal’s questioning and arrest had followed hours after the Delhi High Court declined to grant him interim protection from coercive action. The High Court had referred to the multiple ED summons gone unanswered by the Chief Minister. It had posted the case on April 22.