Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia's lawyer has slammed the Enforcement Directorate for considering arrest as a right without going through the due process of law. The central agency today sought 10-day custody of the Delhi Deputy Chief Minister from a special court as it sought to question him over alleged money laundering in framing a new liquor policy for Delhi, which was later scrapped.
The Enforcement Directorate, or ED, arrested Mr Sisodia yesterday, a day before his bail request in his arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation, or CBI, was to be heard in the special court. The bail request in the CBI case will now be heard on March 21.
"It has become a fashion these days that the agencies take arrests as a right. It's time for the courts to come down heavily on this sense of entitlement," Mr Sisodia's lawyer Dayan Krishna said in the special court today.
"The CBI is investigating a predicate offence. What the ED stated today is in fact the CBI's case...Without the proceeds of the alleged crime, the ED can't start investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act," Mr Krishna said.
The AAP leader's lawyer pointed out that the Delhi liquor policy file also went to the Lieutenant Governor, who, too, had cleared it. "We hope the ED questions the Lieutenant Governor," he said.
In response, explaining why it needs Mr Sisodia's custody for 10 days, the ED said it wants to follow where the money trail in the Delhi liquor policy case leads. The ED said the proceeds of the crime is worth at least Rs 292 crore.
"We have summoned officers. We want to confront them with Sisodia in custody," the ED's lawyer said.
A key focus of the investigation is an alleged network of middlemen, businessmen and politicians which the central agencies have called the "South Group". "The (Delhi liquor) policy was tweaked to help companies of the south group. Mr Sisodia diluted the policy without any consultation," the ED said.
One of the "South Group" people under the radar is K Kavitha, leader of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, a key opposition leader in the centre. She has agreed to appear for questioning on March 11.
The ED has alleged Ms Kavitha benefited from kickbacks in the Delhi liquor policy. The BRS leader has denied the allegations and accused the centre of misusing investigation agencies for political goals.
Mr Sisodia and the others face allegations of allowing liquor cartelisation and favouring certain dealers. The AAP has denied taking bribe from anyone, whether traders or politicians.
The BJP has said the AAP would not have withdrawn the liquor policy if it was confident of not having done anything wrong.