No trail of money found, Kejriwal argues in bail plea | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

No trail of money found, Kejriwal argues in bail plea

Jun 20, 2024 01:43 AM IST

Delhi CM Kejriwal pressed for regular bail in ED case, arguing lack of evidence. Court deferred hearing, to decide on wife's participation via video conference.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with alleged irregularities in the Delhi excise policy 2021-22, on Wednesday pressed for regular bail, arguing before a city court that the federal agency had failed to prove a money trail or substantiate claims that Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders received kickbacks through the formulation of the policy.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (REUTERS)
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (REUTERS)

Kejriwal made the argument on the day when the court extended his judicial custody till July 3 after he was produced from Tihar jail via virtual mode.

Delhi excise policy case: Arvind Kejriwal's judicial custody extended till July 3

The court deferred the hearing to Thursday, and also stated that it will decide on an application by Kejriwal to allow his wife to participate via video conference in his examination by the medical board, along with his regular bail plea.

During the hearing, senior advocate Vikram Chaudhari, representing the chief minister, contended that the entire case against his client was based on statements from “tainted co-accused”, who had been granted bail or pardon. Chaudhari highlighted contradictions in these statements, asserting that they lacked “material corroboration” and were of “questionable veracity”.

“There is no money trail qua the applicant (Arvind Kejriwal). The entire case is statement-centric and statement-oriented, and thus ED thinks that we can prove the entire case based on section 50 (of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act) statements. There is no evidence that the amount of 100 crore or 45 crore has come from the South Group. There is no camera recording or money exchange; these are all in the form of statements,” Chaudhari submitted before vacation judge Nyay Bindu.

Chaudhari drew the court’s attention to two orders passed by the Supreme Court — one granting interim bail to Kejriwal, and the other reserving judgment on his plea against his arrest. The senior advocate contended that the apex court permitted Kejriwal to apply for regular bail while reserving judgment on his plea.

He also highlighted that Kejriwal was not made an accused in the CBI case to date, and argued that as a constitutional functionary, the chair ought to be respected.

Questioning the credibility of the material put forth by ED, Chaudhari referred to statements from witnesses who were granted pardons and turned approvers. He specifically referred to the statements given by Magunta Reddy, a member of the now-ruling NDA alliance. “But will your lordships be so swayed at the time of bail that your lordships will blindly rely on their material? If this is the level of statements against a constitutional functionary… your lordships may go back to the timing (of arrest),” Chaudhari said.

Opposing the bail plea, additional solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju, representing ED, argued that the Supreme Court granted interim bail to Kejriwal in May for 21 days by exercising extraordinary powers solely for the purpose of the general elections, and not on merits. He asserted that there was no doubt about the commission of a money laundering offence since cognisance had been taken by the concerned court and the cognisance order had not been challenged.

The ASG referred to the restraints imposed by PMLA section 45 on the grant of bail, and noted that several accused in the case, including former deputy CM Manish Sisodia, had been denied bail by applying this provision. He argued that Kejriwal’s contention that he has not been arrested in a parallel Central Bureau of Investigation case was irrelevant, citing a Supreme Court judgment that a person can be arraigned as an accused in the scheduled offence despite not being made an accused in the predicate offence.

Raju added that it was Kejriwal’s responsibility to demonstrate that he was not guilty of a PMLA offence, regardless of his constitutional post. He contended that the timing of arrest is the prerogative of the investigating officer and is immaterial if a PMLA offence is made out. The ASG further argued that the credibility of witness statements should be examined at the trial stage, not during the bail application, stating, “At the stage of bail, you cannot conduct a mini trial.”

‘Money trail worth 45 crore traced’: What ED told court while seeking extension of Arvind Kejriwal's judicial custody

Recently, Kejriwal’s plea seeking interim bail for seven days on medical grounds was dismissed, with the court remarking that his extensive election campaigning indicated he was not suffering from a serious or life-threatening ailment warranting bail under PMLA.

Last month, ED filed a supplementary charge sheet in the money laundering case, naming Kejriwal and the AAP as accused. The court has reserved the order on cognisance of the seventh supplementary charge sheet filed by the probe agency.

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