Day After Strong Remarks On Arvind Kejriwal, Supreme Court Hears Case Again

During Monday's hearing, Arvind Kejriwal's counsel told the court that one can be arrested only on evidence of guilt, "not mere suspicion".

Arvind Kejriwal has skipped summons nine times, the ED had said in its affidavit to the court. (File)

New Delhi:

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's challenge to his arrest despite his refusal to give a statement to the Enforcement Directorate in the Delhi liquor policy case was questioned by the Supreme Court on Monday. "If you do not go for recording of Section 50 statements, you cannot take the defence that his statement was not recorded," said Justice Sanjiv Khanna, who was part of the two-judge bench hearing the case.

Section 50 of the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) deals with the power of ED officials to issue summons and production of documents, evidence and other materials.

In his petition, Mr Kejriwal has argued that his arrest is illegal and so is his custody. Its motive was political, made clear by the timing - ahead of the general elections. "The attempt is to decimate a political party and topple an elected government of the NCT of Delhi," his plea read.

During Monday's hearing, his counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court that one can be arrested only on evidence of guilt, "not mere suspicion". "This is also the threshold in Section 45 PMLA (law against money laundering)," he had said, pointing out that the investigating agency had not recoded the statement of the Delhi Chief Minister.

Read | Supreme Court Asks Arvind Kejriwal Why He Didn't Seek Bail, His Reply

"Are you not contradicting yourself by saying that his statements under Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) were not recorded? You don't appear on summons for recording of statements under Section 50 and then you say it was not recorded," the bench said, questioning what the investigating officer could do if Mr Kejriwal did not appear despite repeated summons.

"Non-recording of Section 50 statements is not a defence to arrest me for reasons of believing there is guilt," Mr Singhvi had responded. "I am saying other materials also do not establish my guilt. The ED came to my house to arrest me. Then why can't ED record my statement under Section 50 at my house?" he added.

The Chief Minister has skipped summons for questioning nine times, the Enforcement Directorate had said in its affidavit to the court. "Today, you cannot say that we will arrest you because you did not appear on summons. Can you say that since you did not cooperate, you will be arrested? Non-cooperation cannot be a ground for criminality or grounds of arrest. This court held last year that non-cooperation cannot be a ground of arrest under the PMLA," Mr Singhvi told the court.

He also pointed out that last year, on April 16, Mr Kejriwal was questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation and answered all their queries.

The Enforcement Directorate has contended that Mr Kejriwal was avoiding interrogation and while recording his statement under Section 17 of the PMLA, he was evasive and uncooperative. Arrested on March 21, Mr Kejriwal was in the custody of the agency for questioning. He was moved to Tihar jail under judicial custody on April 1.

Earlier this month, the Delhi high court had upheld Mr Kejriwal's arrest, saying the Enforcement Directorate was left with "little option" after he skipped repeated summons.

The CBI has contended that liquor companies were involved in framing of the Delhi excise policy of 2021-22 that was subsequently scrapped. The policy, which would have brought them a 12 per cent profit, was framed after receiving kickbacks from a liquor lobby it dubbed the "South Group". The Enforcement Directorate alleged the kickbacks were laundered.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday.