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Arvind Kejriwal Gets Big Supreme Court Relief. Interim Bail Till June 1

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The Supreme Court on Friday afternoon gave Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal interim bail till June 1, the final phase of voting for the seven-stage 2024 Lok Sabha election.

The Aam Aadmi Party boss – arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on March 21 in the alleged Delhi liquor excise policy scam, and now in the city’s Tihar Jail – must surrender to prison officials by June 2.

The court also said pleas to extend relief beyond that date would be heard next week; Mr Kejriwal’s legal team had sought bail till July, i.e., till after the election and the formation of the new government.

In granting interim bail for Mr Kejriwal, the Supreme Court had shot down arguments about the term of release, noting, “Let us not draw parallels with other cases. 21 days will not make any difference”.

READ | “21 Days Won’t Make Difference”: What Court Said On Kejriwal Bail

“For one-and-a-half years he was there… he could have been arrested before or after (the election) also. Whatever it is, 21 days here or there should not make any difference,” the court said.

Mr Kejriwal’s team had made a strong pitch for his release to allow him to campaign for his AAP in the days before the election for Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha seats – all held by the BJP – on May 25.

Bail Conditions

The two-judge bench – Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta – said bail conditions would be similar to those imposed on Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, Mr Kejriwal’s colleague who was arrested in October in connection with the same case and given bail in early April. 

READ | AAP’s Sanjay Singh Gets Bail After 6 Months In Liquor Policy Case

Crucially, Sanjay Singh was allowed to participate in political activities, meaning he could campaign for the AAP. And that is what Mr Kejriwal is also expected to be able to do, once he is released.

Specifically, Mr Kejriwal has been told he cannot visit his office or the Delhi Secretariat.

He also cannot interact with witnesses in the case or have any contact with connected files.

In addition, Mr Kejriwal will not “make any comment with regard to his role” in the present case, and “shall be bound by the statement made on his behalf – that he shall not sign official files unless it is required and necessary for obtaining clearance/ approval of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi,” the court stated.

Finally, Mr Kejriwal was told to furnish bail bonds of the value of Rs 50,000 with a similar surety.

Sources said the AAP boss could walk out of Tihar as early as this evening.

AAP, Opposition Reacts

Shortly after Mr Kejriwal also got bail, Mr Singh posted on X. “The truth can be troubled but not defeated. The decision of the Supreme Court is welcomed. The dictatorship will end and the country will see the wonders of Kejriwal… Satyamev Jayate (the truth will win),” he said.

सत्य परेशान हो सकता है पराजित नही।
मा.सर्वोच्च न्यायालय के फ़ैसले का स्वागत है।
तानाशाही का अंत होगा।
सत्यमेव जयते।
देश देखेगा केजरीवाल का कमाल

— Sanjay Singh AAP (@SanjayAzadSln) May 10, 2024

AAP leader and Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said, “Today the Supreme Court has given a ray of hope to all those who believe in the Constitution. Our party, people of Delhi thank the Supreme Court…”

Mr Kejriwal’s release order has also been cheered by the opposition, including the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, which heads the INDIA bloc of which the AAP is a member.

“We welcome the intervention by the Supreme Court in granting interim bail to Arvind Kejriwal…” Congress leader Pawan Khera said, as he then switched focus to former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. “We hope the ex-Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Hemant Soren, also gets due justice.”

Trinamool Congress leader and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also welcomed the decision, posting on X, “I am very happy to see that Arvind Kejriwal has got interim bail…” 

READ | “Helpful In Context Of Polls”: Mamata Banerjee On Arvind Kejriwal’s Bail

Ex-Maharashtra Minister Aaditya Thackeray, who is part of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction that is part of the INDIA bloc, also spoke up, saying, “Arvind Kejriwalji getting justice and relief against dictatorial regime in the country is a huge sign of winds of change.”

Mr Thackeray said, “He has been speaking the truth and that is what the BJP dislikes. More power to him and the INDIA alliance. We will protect our Constitution and democracy!”

ED Opposed Bail For Kejriwal

On Thursday the ED, which had opposed grant of bail, filed an affidavit outlining its objections.

The agency – criticised for allegedly operating at the behest of the ruling BJP to target and harass political rivals before the election – said no politician could claim “special status” higher than that of an ordinary citizen, and is as liable to be arrested and detained for committing offences as any other citizen.

READ | “No Fundamental Right To Campaign”: ED Opposes Bail For Kejriwal

There is no “fundamental” right that will allow Arvind Kejriwal the right to bail to campaign, the ED argued.

The agency also pointed out that no political leader had ever been granted bail for campaigning and said that releasing Mr Kejriwal from jail to canvas for his party candidates would set a wrong precedent.

“Not Habitual Offender”

In Tuesday’s hearing, the court had recognised Mr Kejriwal as the elected Chief Minister of Delhi and not a habitual offender. “There are elections… these are extraordinary circumstances and he is not a habitual offender,” the bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta had said.

READ | “You Can’t Sign Files If You Get Bail”: Supreme Court To Kejriwal

The court earlier said it would consider the question of bail not on grounds of his political profession, but purely on possible exceptional circumstances that warrant the temporary release of the AAP leader.

READ | “Depriving Right To Life”: Supreme Court On Arvind Kejriwal Plea

In a critical question to the ED, the court asked why it had taken it two years to act against the Chief Minister and his party. “The issue is that it has taken two years for this. It is not good for any investigating agency to say that it takes two years to unearth… now when will the trial start,” it asked. 

Alleged Delhi Liquor Policy Scam

The ED claims the liquor policy (now scrapped) created by the AAP government allowed it to receive kickbacks for license allotment, which was to the tune of Rs 100 crores that was used to fund its poll campaigns. The AAP and Mr Kejriwal have firmly denied the charges, and have accused the BJP of making false accusations to discredit the party and its leaders before the election.

With input from agencies

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​In a major relief, the Supreme Court has given Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal interim bail till June 1, the final phase of voting for the seven-stage 2024 Lok Sabha election. 

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