Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday approached the Delhi high court seeking bail in the case registered by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy case.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener filed a fresh plea a day after the high court sought CBI’s response in his petition challenging his arrest by the CBI and the remand. (PTI)

On Wednesday, a bench of acting chief justice Manmohan and justice Tushar Rao Gedela agreed to list Kejriwal’s petition for Friday.

Though Kejriwal’s counsel Rajat Bhardwaj urged the court to list the plea for Thursday saying that the chief minister was taken into “illegal” custody by violating section 41 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the bench said that it would list the matter on Friday. Section 41 allows police to make arrests with a warrant or permission from a magistrate in cases where the police fear it is necessary to prevent a person from committing a further offense or for proper investigation.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener filed a fresh plea a day after the high court sought CBI’s response in his petition challenging his arrest by the CBI and the remand. On Tuesday, a bench of justice Neena Bansal Krishna directed the probe agency to file its response within seven days and listed the matter for July 17, after Kejriwal’s legal team pressed for issuance of notice asserting that there was no need or necessity to arrest the Delhi CM.

The plea by Kejriwal, who has denied all charges, painted a picture that his arrest by the CBI was an attempt to scuttle, obviate and prevent his release from custody in the money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), after which he was granted bail by the Delhi court on June 20. On June 20, a Delhi court had granted Kejriwal bail in ED case citing lack of direct evidence, which was halted by the Delhi high court on June 21, in less than 24 hours. On June 25, a vacation bench of justice Sudhir Kumar Jain stayed the bail order saying that the order was perverse and was passed without appreciating the material submitted by ED.

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Kejriwal’s bail petition stated that the CM is being subjected to gross persecution and harassment for wholly malafide and extraneous considerations. The plea went on to add that the material based on which the AAP chief was arrested was already on record and his arrest 1 year 10 months after the registration of the FIR smacks of “glaring malafide.”

“All postulates of section 41(1)(1)(b)(ii) CrPC coupled with the concept of necessity to arrest have been violated with impunity and the applicant’s incarceration is only punitive solely aimed at taking away his liberty in a high-handed and slip-shot manner,” the plea read.

In his petition before the high court, Kejriwal stressed that there was absolutely nothing on record to show as to how, why and under what circumstances CBIs perception changed from April 16, 2023, the day when Kejriwal was called as a witness to his arrest till June 2024. “In the interregnum, not even a single notice has been ever issued to the Applicant either under Section 160 CrPC or Section 41A CrPC thereby exposing the malafide intent and design of the investigating agency,” it added.

The petition underscored that the probe agency was continuously haranguing and harassing the sitting CM in the garb of ongoing investigation when it has already completed its probe and gathered all the material which formed the basis for the AAP chief’s request. “A premier agency like CBI cannot play truant with the process of law and has to act with dispassion and objectivity while dispelling any notion of bias or lop-sided approach,” the plea read.

It stated that there was no occasion for him to approach the trial court for bail since the high court is already considering his petition challenging the arrest and remand. “Moreover, since the issues raised in the present petition and the writ petition (challenging his arrest and remand) would be overlapping, common and certainly intertwined, it would be prudent, desirable as well as expedient in the interest of justice to hear both the petitions simultaneously,” the plea read.

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CBI arrested Kejriwal in the Rouse Avenue Court on June 26 after a sequence of dramatic developments in court. The developments came after a dramatic start to the day when, at 10.30am, the federal agency briefly questioned Kejriwal in court premises before arresting him. On June 29, a Delhi court had sent the CM to 14 days judicial custody till July 12.

In the remand note, the agency alleged that Kejriwal is “one of the main conspirators of the criminal conspiracy” and said that Vijay Nair, a former party functionary, was contacting various liquor manufacturers and traders and demanding undue gratification since March 2021.

Kejriwal, the agency claimed, asked YSRCP’s Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, who is now an MP, to provide “monetary funding to the AAP” while assuring support in the liquor business in Delhi. CBI said it had corroboration of these moves from “contemporaneous documentary material”.

According to the agency, Reddy, YSRCP Lok Sabha MP from Ongole, met Kejriwal on March 16, 2021, requesting support in Delhi’s liquor business. Kejriwal allegedly assured support and asked Reddy to contact Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha, who was reportedly working with Kejriwal’s team. The CBI claims Kejriwal also asked Reddy to provide monetary funding to AAP, a fact they say is corroborated by “contemporaneous documentary material.” K Kavitha allegedly told Reddy that 100 crore must be arranged for AAP as upfront money by March 2021, the agency claimed, while also contending the L1 (wholesale) license given to Indospirits, a company in which K Kavitha and Reddy’s son Raghav Magunta had stakes, violated rules and was granted despite pending complaints of cartelisation.

In the past, Kejriwal’s lawyers have questioned the credibility of the federal agencies relying on witnesses who were granted pardons and turned approvers, especially referring to Magunta Reddy.

CBI has filed four charge sheets in the case against 17 accused persons, including Sisodia and Kavitha. Kejriwal has not been named in any of the indictments yet. They claim that out of 100 crore received by AAP as kickbacks, 44.45 crore was transferred to Goa during June 2021 to January 2022 through “hawala channels” for election campaign purposes.