Excise 'scam': Delhi court sends Kejriwal to judicial custody till July 12

Excise 'scam': Delhi court sends Kejriwal to judicial custody till July 12
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal being produced before Rouse Avenue court by the CBI, seeking judicial custody of him after his 3-day custody ended, in New Delhi, Saturday, June 29, 2024.

New Delhi | A court here on Saturday sent Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to judicial custody till July 12 in a corruption case related to the alleged excise scam, saying his name has surfaced as one of the "main conspirators" and as the investigation is still in progress, his further custodial interrogation may be required.

Kejriwal was produced in the court by the CBI after the end of his three-day custodial interrogation, following which the central agency sought 14-day judicial custody while claiming that the AAP chief did not cooperate with the investigation and deliberately gave evasive replies.

The agency, in its remand plea, also expressed apprehension that he may influence witnesses and evidence already exposed before him during the custodial interrogation and also the potential witnesses who are yet to be examined.

Kejriwal, 55, was arrested by the CBI on June 26 from Tihar Jail, where he was in judicial custody in a connected money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate.

"Considering the fact that the conspiracy alleged against the accused (Kejriwal) involves a large number of persons who were involved in the formulation and implementation of excise policy and also the persons who acted as facilitators in the use of ill-gotten money, I find that there exist sufficient grounds for remanding the accused to judicial custody'," Special Judge Sunena Sharma said.

"...The investigation is still in progress and may require custodial interrogation of the accused to confront him with more material likely to be collected during the course of the investigation. Accordingly, accused Arvind Kejriwal is remanded to judicial custody till July 12," the judge added.

Noting the evidence before it, the court said that the investigation revealed that accused Vijay Nair, a close associate of Kejriwal, was the media-in-charge of the Aam Admi Party and he had contacted various liquor manufacturers and traders for demanding undue gratification for incorporation of provisions favourable to them in the excise policy for 2021-22.

It also noted that Kejriwal's name surfaced as one of the "main conspirators of the criminal conspiracy" for various offences under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code.

"Four chargesheets in the case have already been filed against 17 accused persons including the persons of South group," the court noted.

It said that the investigating officer (IO) had pointed out in the case diary that Kejriwal was not cooperative during his custodial interrogation, nor was he truthful in disclosing facts on many material aspects.

"The IO has pointed out certain incriminatory material collected during the investigation for showing that the ill-gotten money was used during the Goa assembly election for making payments towards the expenses of air tickets and hotel booking during the visits of the accused to Goa from June 2021 to February 2022," the court said.

It said that the IO also showed some incriminatory material showing Kejriwal's chats with certain persons "involved in the transfer of ill-gotten money to Goa through hawala".

According to the IO, as Kejriwal provided an "evasive reply" regarding his connection with these persons, his further custodial may be required to unearth the "larger conspiracy" regarding the formulation and implementation of the excise policy and use of the "ill-gotten money" by Kejriwal and "other top leaders of Aam Admi Party," the court noted.

It observed that while the court can scrutinise the case diary, the material collected by the IO could not be shared with the accused till the agency filed its final report.

In its remand application, the CBI said during the custodial interrogation, Kejriwal did not cooperate with the investigation and deliberately gave evasive replies contrary to the evidence on record.

"On being confronted with the evidence, he did not give a proper and truthful explanation regarding the enhancement of the profit margin for wholesalers from 5 per cent to 12 per cent under the new excise policy of Delhi 2021-22, without any study or justification," it said.

"He also could not explain as to why during the peak of the second wave of Covid, the cabinet approval for revised excise policy was obtained through circulation in a hurried manner within one day, when the accused persons of the South Group were camping in Delhi and holding meetings with his close associate Vijay Nair," it added.

The application said Kejriwal evaded the questions regarding the meetings of his associate Vijay Nair with various stakeholders of the liquor business in Delhi and he was unable to give a proper explanation about his meeting with Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy, accused Arjun Pandey and accused Mootha Gautham.

"He also evaded the questions regarding the transfer and utilisation of ill-gotten money to the tune of Rs.44.54 crores in Goa assembly elections by his party during 2021-22," it said, adding that Kejriwal was "deliberately and intentionally evading the just and relevant questions related to the case."

"He, being a prominent politician and chief minister of Delhi, is a very influential person, as such, there are credible reasons to believe that, he may influence the witnesses and evidences already exposed before him during the custodial interrogation and also the potential witnesses, who are yet to be examined, tamper with the evidence to be further collected and may hamper the ongoing investigation," the application said.

As some crucial witnesses were yet to be examined and documents or digital evidence were yet to be collected, the plea sought Kejriwal's judicial custody for two weeks "in the interest of the investigation and justice

On March 21, Kejriwal was arrested by the ED. He was granted bail on June 20 in the case by a trial court that was stayed by the Delhi High Court.

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