India court rejects plea challenging Delhi CM Kejriwal’s arrest in graft case


An Indian court on Tuesday rejected an appeal against the arrest of opposition leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a graft case, an order that disappointed the opposition 10 days before general elections.

Kejriwal, 55, was arrested by the financial crime-fighting agency Enforcement Directorate (ED) on March 21 in connection with corruption allegations related to Delhi’s liquor policy, sparking protests in the capital and the northern state of Punjab, also governed by his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

A city court last week extended Kejriwal’s detention until April 15 and moved him to Delhi’s Tihar jail, where two senior AAP leaders are also held in the same case. A third AAP leader detained in the case was given bail this month after being imprisoned for six months.

In its order on Tuesday, the Delhi High Court said Kejriwal’s arrest was not in contravention of the law and “cannot be termed as illegal”.

AAP said it would appeal to the Supreme Court and reiterated its position that the high-profile leader was arrested in a “fabricated” case in an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to “finish” him.

The government and BJP have denied the accusations.

“It is the biggest conspiracy of India’s history […] to finish Arvind Kejriwal, his political party, and his two governments in Delhi and Punjab,” AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj told reporters.

“We are not satisfied with this decision and we will go to the Supreme Court against this decision,” he said.

The BJP said the court’s decision was based on hard facts and had “shattered the arrogance” of AAP and its “self-proclaimed honest” leader.

An alliance of 27 opposition parties called ‘INDIA’, of which AAP is a member, has thrown its weight behind Kejriwal since his arrest, criticising ED and other federal agencies for what it says is their “politically motivated” investigations.

India’s main opposition Congress party has accused Modi’s government of “tax terrorism”, saying the tax department had sought to cripple it financially through huge tax demands just before the elections.

The action against opposition groups is aimed at denying them a level playing field, the INDIA alliance says. It has appealed to the Election Commission to intervene.

The government denies the accusations and says enforcement agencies are only doing their job by pursuing