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Delhi CM to remain in jail in corruption case

Published : 28 Mar 2024 10:14 PM

A court has extended Indian opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal’s custody until Monday in a corruption case.

The Delhi chief minister has denied allegations that he received kickbacks in a now-scrapped alcohol sales policy.

The ruling comes a day after the US reiterated that it encouraged a “fair” legal process in the case.

Mr Kejriwal was arrested last week amid criticism from opposition parties that the government was stifling them ahead of general elections in April and May.

He was produced in court on Thursday, which had earlier been set as his last day in custody.

Mr Kejriwal told the court that the case against him was a “political conspiracy” and that there was no concrete evidence to back the claims against him.

But SV Raju, representing the Enforcement Directorate (ED), India’s financial crimes unit, said that Mr Kejriwal had been “evasive in his replies”.

After the hearing, Mr Kejriwal’s lawyer Ramesh Gupta told reporters that the chief minister had “no objection to being in custody” but that he “opposed the grounds on which his remand is being sought”.

Mr Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of political vendetta. The BJP denies the allegation, saying it is acting against corruption.

Mr Kejriwal is the third AAP leader to be arrested over the alleged corruption case. An alliance of more than 20 opposition parties have planned a protest rally in Delhi on Sunday against his arrest.

The BJP has alleged that the now-scrapped alcohol policy - which ended the government’s monopoly on liquor sales - gave undue advantages to private retailers. The ED has accused AAP leaders of receiving kickbacks to be used in state elections. The party denies the allegation.

On Wednesday, US State Department spokesperson, Mathew Miller, reiterated that the US was closely following Mr Kejriwal’s arrest and actions taken against opposition parties in India.

“We encourage fair, transparent, timely legal processes [in both cases]. We don’t think anyone should object to that,” Mr Miller said.

He had made similar remarks on Tuesday, which prompted India to summon a senior US diplomat in Delhi to register its protest.

India had criticised his remarks on Tuesday and issued a fresh statement on Thursday as well.

“The recent remarks are unwarranted. In India, legal processes are driven by the rule of law. Anyone who has similar ethos, specially fellow democracies, should have no difficulty in appreciating this fact,” a spokesperson from India’s Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

The US is the second country to comment on Mr Kejriwal’s arrest. Last week, the German foreign ministry said it hoped that Mr Kejriwal would get a “fair and impartial trial as India is a democratic nation”.

India reacted strongly to these remarks as well and summoned a German diplomat to raise its objections.

Indian opposition leaders have accused the BJP of using investigative agencies to cripple their parties and stifle dissent before the elections.

Hours before Mr Kejriwal’s arrest on 21 March, India’s main opposition Congress party also held a press conference saying that its bank accounts had been frozen by the tax department ahead of the general elections.

In January, the ED arrested top opposition leader Hemant Soren in a corruption case, hours after he resigned from the position of the chief minister of Jharkhand state. Mr Soren and his party denied any wrongdoing and accused the BJP of stifling opposition. The BJP has rejected his claim.

Amnesty International has also said that the crackdown on peaceful dissent and opposition in India has “now reached a crisis point”.