[Excise Liquor Policy] | Arrest of Arvind Kejriwal not in contravention with law; Delhi High Court dismisses Arvind Kejriwal’s plea

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: A petition was filed by Arvind Kejriwal under Article 226 and 227 read with Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) challenging the arrest of the petitioner by Directorate of Enforcement on the ground that the arrest was in violation of Section 19 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (‘PMLA’) and it has been prayed that the arrest order dated 21-03-2024 and the proceedings pursuant thereto be declared illegal, non-est, arbitrary and unconstitutional along with declaring the order vide which the petitioner was remanded to custody of Directorate of Enforcement be also quashed on the grounds of it being passed in a mechanical and patently routine manner. Swarana Kanta Sharma, J., dismissed the petition for release of the petitioner.

The case involved two parallel investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Directorate of Enforcement regarding irregularities in the formulation and implementation of the excise policy of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) for the year 2021-2022. The CBI registered a case based on a complaint from the Lieutenant Governor of GNCTD and subsequent directions from the Ministry of Home Affairs, alleging offenses under the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act. It is claimed that the accused, including prominent political figures like Vijay Nair and Manish Sisodia, conspired to create loopholes in the policy for personal gain, receiving kickbacks from the liquor business. The Directorate of Enforcement registered a separate case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) due to the scheduled offencses and filed multiple prosecution complaints against the accused. Arvind Kejriwal, the petitioner, was summoned multiple times for investigation but failed to appear. He was subsequently arrested on 21-03-2024 and remanded to custody by the Special Court on 22-03-2024. Thus, Arvind Kejriwal challengechallengedd his arrest and the remand order in the High Court, disputing his involvement in the alleged offencses.

The Court emphasized the importance of judicial independence and impartiality, asserting that judges are bound by law, not politics. It underscored that courts must focus solely on legal principles and not be influenced by political affiliations or considerations. The judiciary’s role is to interpret and apply the law impartially, ensuring justice is administered fairly to all parties involved. The Court highlighted that the state is a static entity, while governments are subject to the will of the people. The Court reiterated that democracy and the democratic process are rooted in legal principles and civic values, not contingent upon any single factor or individual. The Court further noted that political considerations should not be brought before the Court, as they are irrelevant to legal proceedings.

The Court remarked that “Courts, as the custodians of justice, are primarily concerned with only upholding constitutional morality rather than getting into the issue of political morality of the parties, as the issue of political morality is their concern, and this Court cannot form any judgment about the same. When adjudicating legal disputes, the Courts are dutybound to interpret laws and assess the actions of investigating agencies in alignment with constitutional and legal norms, irrespective of political considerations. The petitioner or the respondent may find the Court to be excessively harsh or lenient in their cases, however, the Court has to dispassionately only keep its concern with application of law and decide the case before it accordingly.

The Court relied on Pankaj Bansal v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 1244, wherein the Supreme Court ruled that the grounds of arrest must be communicated in writing to the person being arrested under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), and failure to do so renders the arrest illegal. In the present case, the Court noted that the petitioner was indeed provided with the grounds of arrest in writing, consisting of 28 pages, at the time of their arrest. Additionally, the arrest order was in the prescribed format and explicitly stated the reasons for the arrest, as required. Furthermore, the Directorate of Enforcement forwarded the necessary material to the Adjudicating Authority of PMLA in compliance with Section 19(2) of PMLA. Based on the material collected, including witness statements, digital evidence, and the petitioner’s conduct of failing to join the investigation despite multiple summons, the court finds prima facie evidence of the petitioner’s involvement in money laundering offenses. Therefore, the Court concluded that the arrest of the petitioner was justified and conducted in compliance with the provisions of PMLA and the precedent set by the Supreme Court.

[Arvind Kejriwal v. Enforcement Directorate, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 2685, decided on 09-04-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mr. Vikram Chaudhari, and Mr. Amit Desai, Senior Advocates with Mr. Vivek Jain, Mohd. Irshad, Mr. Rajat Bhardwaj, Mr. Karan Sharma, Mr. Rajat Jain, Mr. Mohit Siwach, Mr. Kaustubh Khanna, Mr. Rishikesh Kumar, Mr. Shailesh Chauhan, Mr. Sadiq Noor, Mr. Mehul Prasad, Ms. Priyanka Sarda, Ms. Sheenu Priya and Ms. Princy Sharma, Advocates for petitioner

Mr. S.V. Raju, learned ASG with Mr. Zoheb Hossain, Special Counsel for ED, Mr. Annam Venkatesh, Mr. Arkaj Kumar, Mr. Vivek Gurnani, Mr. Hitarth Raja, Ms. Abhipriya Rai, Mr. Kartik Sabharwal, Mr. Vivek Gaurav, Mr. Agrimaa Singh, Mr. Kanishk Maurya and Mr. Ritumbhara Garg, Advocates for ED along with Ms. Bhanupriya Meena, DD, Mr. Gaurav Saini, ALA and Mr. S.K. Sharma, IO for ED.

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