Indian opposition leader Kejriwal remanded in custody in graft case

The Delhi chief minister was arrested for alleged corruption in the city’s liquor policy

Reuters
Published : 22 March 2024, 03:08 PM
Updated : 22 March 2024, 03:08 PM

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi's capital territory and a key opposition leader, was remanded in custody on Friday until March 28, a blow to the opposition after he was arrested in a graft case weeks before a general election.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), India's financial crime agency, arrested Kejriwal on Thursday in connection with corruption allegations relating to the city's liquor policy.

His detention, less than a month before India begins voting on April 19, is a setback for his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the larger opposition alliance as he is a key campaigner who entered politics on an anti-corruption platform.

All the main leaders of his decade-old party are in jail in connection with the liquor case.

Kejriwal, 55, told the India Today TV channel he would not resign and would run the city government from jail if he had to.

"This is not a case or investigation, this is murder of democracy in this country," said Delhi's finance minister Atishi, who uses only one name.

"The BJP wants to win the elections through the ED," she said, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.

AAP has called for protests, with plans for its members to burn effigies of Modi in Delhi on Sunday and march to his residence on Tuesday.

Earlier on Friday, AAP workers protested in Delhi and the states of Punjab, Haryana, Odisha and Gujarat, among others. Dozens were detained by police. Police in Punjab, the only other state AAP rules, and Haryana, used water cannons to disperse protesters.

  • Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal sent to custody in graft case

  • Kejriwal's arrest is a blow to opposition ahead of elections

  • Kejriwal's AAP party calls it murder of democracy

  • AAP members protest around the country

  • Investigators say Kejriwal is kingpin, needs to be questioned

OPPOSITION UNDER PRESSURE

A delegation of opposition leaders met the Election Commission of India asking it to intervene, saying the arrest had damaged the level playing field the opposition needs.

The ED is investigating allegations that the Delhi government's 2022 policy that ended its control over liquor sales gave undue advantages to private retailers. It was subsequently withdrawn and the AAP government has said no evidence of wrongdoing has emerged in the investigation.

The ED lawyer told the court on Friday that Kejriwal had been uncooperative, failing to appear for questioning despite nine summons.

Kejriwal was the "kingpin" and "key conspirator" as he was "directly involved in formulation" of the liquor policy and needed to be interrogated, the lawyer said.

AAP is part of the 27-member 'INDIA' bloc which has dismissed graft investigations against multiple opposition leaders as a politically motivated smear campaign by the BJP, which runs the federal government that controls the ED. 

The federal government and BJP deny any political interference.

On Thursday, the main opposition Congress party accused Modi of crippling it before the general election by freezing its accounts in an income tax case, charges BJP denied.

"AAP and Arvind Kejriwal were arguing until now that there is no evidence, this is a fake case," BJP National Secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa told ANI. "The court understands that there is so much strong evidence which is why they have sent him on remand."