Supreme Court grants interim bail to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal till June 1

Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the Delhi liquor policy case.
shish Tripathi
Last Updated : 10 May 2024, 08:43 IST
Last Updated : 10 May 2024, 08:43 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for campaign till June 1, saying since the matter related to validity of his arrest was still under consideration, a more holistic and libertarian view is justified due to ongoing 18th Lok Sabha General Elections.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, however, ordered Kejriwal to surrender on June 2 and barred him from visiting the Chief Minister's office and the Delhi Secretariat as a condition for his bail.

The court said, "Power to grant interim bail is commonly exercised in a number of cases. Interim bail is granted in the facts of each case. This case is not an exception." 

The order comes as a big boost to the poll campaign for AAP, which is contesting all the seats in Punjab and four seats in Delhi, in alliance with Congress.

Kejriwal, the national convenor of Aam Aadmi Party, was arrested on March 21, 2024 in the liquor policy scam case. He has challenged validity of his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate but yet not filed any bail plea.

The court rejected vehement opposition by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, that such an order would result in grant of privilege or special status to politicians. 

"The appellant Arvind Kejriwal is the Chief Minister of Delhi and a leader of one of the national parties. No doubt, serious accusations have been made, but he has not been convicted. He does not have any criminal antecedents. He is not a threat to the society. The investigation in the present case has remained pending since August 2022," the bench said.

The bench said the fact situation cannot be compared with harvesting of crops or plea to look after business affairs as contended by the ED in an affidavit filed on May 9.

"In this background, once the matter is subjudice and the questions relating to legality of arrest are under consideration, a more holistic and libertarian view is justified, in the background that the 18th Lok Sabha General Elections are being held," the bench said in its eight-page order.

The court noted it was not possible for it to either conclude the arguments or finally pronounce the judgment on Kejriwal's petition against the Delhi High Court's order, dismissing his plea against arrest. 

As elections are in progress and the appeal is pending, it would be proper to direct the Kejriwal to approach the trial court for interim bail or release, the court said.

The court pointed out it is no gainsaying that General Elections to Lok Sabha is the most significant and an important event this year, as it should be in a national election year. Between 650-700 million voters out of an electorate of about 970 million will cast their votes to elect the government of this country for the next five years. 

"General Elections supply the vis viva to a democracy. Given the prodigious importance, we reject the argument raised on behalf of the prosecution that grant of interim bail/release on this account would be giving premium of placing the politicians in a benefic position compared to ordinary citizens of this country," the bench said.

The bench also held while examining the question of grant of interim bail or release, the courts always take into consideration the peculiarities associated with the person in question and the surrounding circumstances. 

"In fact, to ignore the same would be iniquitous and wrong," it said.

During the brief hearing, the ED's counsel submitted that Kejriwal should not speak on the case but the court refrained from issuing such a direction.

Mehta also submitted Punjab's pro Khalistan leader Amritpal Singh arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act sought a similar relief for bail as he was contesting poll. The court said it would be considered on its own facts.

Among the conditions for bail, the court asked Kejriwal to furnish a bail of Rs 50,000 and one surety of the like amount.

"He shall be bound by the statement made on his behalf that he shall not sign official files unless it is required and necessary for obtaining clearance/ approval of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi; he will not make any comment with regard to his role in the present case; and he will not interact with any of the witnesses and/or have access to any official files connected with the case," the bench said.

Published 10 May 2024, 08:43 IST

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