"What Happened Is Unusual": Top Court's Remark On Arvind Kejriwal Hearing

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in March, in connection with the alleged Delhi liquor policy case, and has been in jail since, except 21 days in May-June.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (File).

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Monday refused Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal immediate relief in his battle to overturn the High Court's interim stay on a bail order issued last week by a lower court.

The court responded to Mr Kejriwal's arguments - that the High Court erred in staying bail without fully reading the order, and rationale, of the lower court - by saying it would wait till the said order came on record, and the High Court had a chance to re-examine the stay - before ruling on his plea.

The court fixed Wednesday as the next hearing date; the High Court is scheduled to deliver its full verdict at 2.30 pm Tuesday. "It is not proper to interfere when the High Court has reserved its judgement," the Supreme Court said, "We will keep this petition for hearing for day after tomorrow."

It did, however, admit the High Court's actions were "unusual"; Justice Manoj Misra said, "In stay matters, orders are not reserved but passed on the spot. What has happened here is unusual."

This was after Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate - which arrested Mr Kejriwal in the liquor policy case March and has opposed bail and medical relief claimed by the Chief Minister - said the High Court is likely to render its verdict within 24 hours.

Earlier the High Court paused Mr Kejriwal's bail after a last-gasp challenge from the Enforcement Directorate - filed hours before he was to leave jail - that said the release order was "perverse".

READ | Kejriwal Approaches Supreme Court Against High Court's Stay On Bail

The High Court immediately put Mr Kejriwal's release on hold pending further arguments.

On Sunday Mr Kejriwal challenged the stay in the Supreme Court.

"Not Flight Risk": Kejriwal Asks For Bail

This morning, as the day's (brief) hearing began, Mr Kejriwal's lawyers argued that the "balance of convenience" is in the Chief Minister's favour, reasoning there is no substantial reason for the AAP leader to stay in jail. "If bail is reversed, he will certainly go back to jail... as he did after the Supreme Court's interim release (to campaign for the election)," senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi said.

He was referring to Mr Kejriwal's release last month - allowed by the top court - to campaign for his party and the Congress-led INDIA bloc in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP was pegged back and forced to rely on its allies to form the government.

Mr Singhvi also referred to the top court's order granting Mr Kejriwal that interim bail, in which it acknowledged the AAP leader is not a "habitual offender" and has no criminal antecedents.

"Why can't I be free in the interim? I have a judgment in my favour..." he continued, responding to the court suggesting the Chief Minister be patient for 24-48 hours till the High Court reads its order.

READ | Near Release, Kejriwal's Bail Paused Till New Court Decision

"If we pass order now, we will prejudge the issue. This is not a subordinate court..." he was told.

Mr Kejriwal's side argued strenuously the stay order should not be allowed to stand because the lower court's order had not been released when the High Court listed the ED's challenge.

"There was only an oral direction to not give effect to the bail order..." his camp pointed out.

"This (Mr Kejriwal's regular bail order) is a discretionary order passed by a trial court for a person who was (already) released by this honourable court," senior advocate Vikram Chaudhary said.

"Perverse Order Can Be Stayed"

The ED, however, stressed that a "perverse", or incorrect, order can and should be stayed.

The federal agency earlier argued the trial court's order - giving Mr Kejriwal bail - is "... completely flawed. The court said there was no direct proof. That's a wrong statement by the court."

"We showed material but nothing (was) considered. There are two ways bail can be cancelled; one is, if relevant facts are not considered. That is grounds for cancellation of bail. All I am saying is 'look at the soundness of the order'. Bail could have granted bail but not like this..." the agency said.

It also told the court that, in its opinion, the twin conditions for grant of bail under Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, under which Mr Kejriwal has been charged, had not been met.

Why Was Mr Kejriwal Arrested?

The ED arrested Mr Kejriwal over money laundering allegations while framing the Delhi liquor policy for 2021-22, which was later scrapped after the Lieutenant Governor raised red flags.

The ED has alleged that the money Mr Kejriwal and the AAP got from the liquor sellers - around Rs 100 crore - was used to fund the party's poll campaign in Goa and Punjab.

Both Mr Kejriwal and the AAP have rubbished the charges, calling them political vendetta and pointing out that despite months of searching the ED has still not found the alleged bribe money.

On Thursday last Mr Kejriwal was given regular bail by Delhi's Rouse Avenue Court.

READ | Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Gets Bail In Liquor Policy Case

The court accepted his argument that the case against him rested only on statements given by former accused who have since turned approvers, or government witnesses. "Circumstances have to be so intrinsically linked (as to) lead to the guilt. Statements by tainted persons discredit prosecution's case. There is no evidence Rs 100 crore came from 'South Group'. There is no evidence," he argued.

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