ED arrests Kejriwal in liquor scam, takes him to HQ

Kejriwal is the first Chief Minister to be arrested by the agency while holding office

NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate late on Thursday evening arrested Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in an liquor policy scam-linked money laundering case hours after the Delhi High Court declined to grant the AAP chief protection from coercive action. Kejriwal is the first Chief Minister to be arrested by the agency while holding office.

Prior to Kejriwal's arrest, ED officials searched his official residence and interrogated him for over two hours. After his arrest, Kejriwal was taken to the agency's headquarters in the national capital for further questioning. Earlier, the AAP chief skipped the ninth ED summons in the excise scam case. He has called these summonses "illegal".

The ED’s case is that Kejriwal and members of the Delhi government had collected kickbacks, including '100 crore from BRS MLC K. Kavitha of the ‘South Group’ to draft a liquor policy that was beneficial to them. Kavitha and former Delhi Dy CM Manish Sisodia have been arrested in the case.

After the ED action, the AAP legal team filed the petition in the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing on Thursday night to quash the arrest of Kejriwal, at 8.57 pm. The party's legal team said that it is in constant touch with Supreme Court registrar Puneet Sehgal, who handles the listing for the Chief Justice of India. Kejriwal's plea is likely to be mentioned before the apex court for an urgent hearing on Friday.

The 55-year-old leader's arrest, amid campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, drew angry reactions from the AAP. The party said Kejriwal "will continue as the Chief Minister of Delhi. If need be, he will run the government from jail," while the BJP demanded that he should step down on moral grounds.

In a fierce response to the ED’s move, the AAP alleged on Thursday that there was a "huge conspiracy" behind the arrest ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and accused the BJP of using the Central agency as a political tool.

Delhi ministers Saurabh Bharadwaj, Atishi and other AAP leaders and workers gathered outside Kejriwal’s residence. Security was beefed up around the Civil Lines residence in the evening with the deployment of Rapid Action Force and Central Reserve Police Force units, along with Delhi Police personnel, as ED officials reached there. Later, Section 144 was imposed in the area.

"This episode shows how scared Prime Minister Narendra Modi is of Kejriwal. He has hatched a conspiracy to send him to jail before the Lok Sabha elections," Delhi minister Atishi told reporters.

Reacting to the development, the Congress said that targeting the Delhi Chief Minister in this manner during the Lok Sabha elections was completely wrong and unconstitutional.

"Fight your critics in the electoral battle, confront them boldly and, of course, attack their policies and working style -- this is democracy. But in this way, using the power of all the institutions of the country to fulfil one's political objective and weakening those by exerting pressure is against every principle of democracy," Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said in a post in Hindi on X.

Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva said the liquor scam started in Delhi in 2021-22 and one revelation after another exposed how corruption took place and money was laundered.

On Thursday, the AAP chief skipped the ninth ED summons in the excise scam case. He has called these summonses "illegal".

Earlier in the day, a Delhi high court bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain refused to grant Mr Kejriwal any protection from coercive action in the case.

The bench listed the AAP leader's application for further consideration on April 22, when his main petition challenging the summonses is scheduled for hearing.

The case pertains to alleged corruption and money laundering in formulating and executing the Delhi government's excise policy for 2021-22, which was later scrapped. AAP leaders Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh are in judicial custody in the case.

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