[Excise Policy Case] Delhi Court Reserves Order In Kejriwal’s Plea Seeking Regular Bail

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Kejriwal approached the trial court seeking regular bail as well as permission to allow his wife to join the medical examination. He emphasized that his wife has more information regarding the diseases and treatments and therefore should be allowed to participate

The Delhi Court, on Thursday, reserved its order on Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's plea seeking regular bail as well as permission to allow his wife to join his medical assessments concerning the now defunct liquor excise policy case. Vacation Judge Niyay Bindu reserved the order, after recording the submissions. 

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju referred to corroborating statements and call data records (CDRs). ASG Raju cited a statement from Sagar Patel, which mentioned three individuals, including Chanpreet Singh, receiving cash. Chanpreet Singh reportedly received a significant cash amount and paid for Kejriwal’s hotel expenses during the Goa election campaign.

ASG Raju stated that Singh received ₹45 crore through hawala channels, which financed AAP’s Goa election campaign. Continuing, ASG Raju read the court order, which stated Kejriwal could not explain the source of the money used for his stay at a seven-star hotel in Goa. He asserted that kickback money funded the Goa campaign.

He presented chats between Chauhan and Kejriwal as concrete evidence, disputing any notion of the ED conducting arbitrary investigations. The ED submitted photographs of currency notes used in the transactions, with instructions from Vinod Chauhan to make payments to individuals including Chanpreet. Chauhan’s phone contained these photographs, and regular communication with Chanpreet was established. The evidence indicated that the cash had been transferred and documented. 

ASG Raju emphasized that while Kejriwal might not have committed the offence directly, his responsibility for AAP's affairs implicated him under Section 70 PMLA. He stated that Kejriwal refused to provide his phone password, asserting its sanctity, necessitating reliance on Chauhan’s phone. This refusal, according to ASG Raju, suggested the presence of incriminating evidence.

ASG Raju argued that Section 70 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) applied to Kejriwal as he was responsible for the party’s affairs, analogous to a company's conduct. AAP candidates who participated in the assembly elections confirmed receiving cash. The AAP constitution designates the national convenor, Kejriwal, as accountable for the party’s conduct.

Furthermore, ASG Raju highlighted Vijay Nair’s involvement, identifying him as a middleman for payments, with undeniable proximity to Kejriwal. He operated from Kejriwal’s camp office, with witnesses testifying that he reported directly to Kejriwal and facilitated the bribe Kejriwal demanded. ASG Raju, while concluding his submission, asserted that the timing of the arrest could not possibly justify the grant of bail.

On the other hand, Senior Advocate Vikram Chaudhari representing Kejriwal challenged the ED’s practices and the basis of their case against Kejriwal. He argued that the case against him commenced in August 2022, and despite material evidence against him by July 2023, the first summons was issued only in October. He highlighted his cooperation as a CBI witness and the sequence of events leading to his arrest. 

Senior Advocate Chaudhari questioned the propriety of the arrest, noting that the high court had acknowledged the legality but not the appropriateness of the arrest. He criticized the ED’s timing of arrests and summons, especially around election announcements, suggesting a pattern of targeted actions.

While referring to the supreme court’s order allowing Kejriwal to approach the trial court and granting him interim bail, Senior Advocate Chaudhari countered the ED’s argument that the high court order was binding. He remarked on the supreme court’s consideration of antecedents, which influenced its order. He noted that the order in Manish Sisodia’s case did not relate to Kejriwal and clarified that he was not an accused in the CBI investigation, but rather a witness.

Furthermore, Senior Advocate Chaudhari challenged the reliability of the ED’s case, which relied heavily on statements from an approver, arguing that such statements should not justify bail denial. He emphasized that the court should scrutinize tainted statements when considering the twin conditions under Section 45 of the PMLA. He asserted that the investigation was endless if materials were still being collected and questioned the independence of the ED, suggesting political influence. He described interrogation as an art, where answers only emerged when bail was imminent.

Additionally, Senior Advocate Chaudhari criticized the ongoing arrests and evaluations while the claim of a ₹100 crore bribe remained unsubstantiated. He referenced Section 70 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and disputed the notion that being the national convenor of AAP made him responsible for all party activities. He stated that there was no evidence that AAP received ₹45 crore.

Senior Advocate Chaudhari emphasized that prosecuting a sitting Chief Minister based on weak evidence, such as birthday greetings interpreted as hawala conversations, was unjustified. He questioned how Kejriwal could be associated with Angaria paying money to Chanpreet Singh, emphasizing that there was no evidence linking this to proceeds of crime used for the Goa elections.

Senior Advocate Chaudhuri, while concluding his submission, expressed astonishment at the assumption that just because Chauhan’s number was saved in Kejriwal’s phone, it implied that Chauhan secured his posting through Kejriwal.

The court, noting the submission of the ED as well as Arvind Kejriwal, reserved its order.