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On approvers, HC rebukes Kejriwal for casting aspersions on judicial process

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Arvind Kejriwal Delhi High Court

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday rebuked Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for "casting aspersions" on the judicial process with his claim about an approver in the money laundering case against him making donations to the BJP through electoral bonds, saying the law relating to approvers was over 100 years old and not enacted to falsely implicate the AAP leader.

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The high court, which rejected Kejriwal's petition challenging his arrest in the money laundering case linked to the alleged Delhi excise policy scam, said it was not concerned with who purchased electoral bonds for whom and that it was only responsible for applying provisions of law to the case before it.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma, while dismissing the AAP national convenor's petition against his arrest and subsequent remand in the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) custody, said casting aspersions on the manner of granting pardon or recording statements of approvers amounted to casting aspersions on the judicial process.

In his petition, Kejriwal sought his release on several grounds, including that the belated statements of approvers Raghav Magunta and Sarath Reddy cannot be relied upon as the latter even donated to the ruling party through electoral bonds.

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Aurobindo Pharma purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 5 crore on November 15, 2022, five days after one of its directors, Reddy, was arrested in the excise case by the ED.

According to data released by the Election Commission, the company had bought electoral bonds for a total of Rs 52 crore with more than half of it going to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

"In this court’s opinion, who gives tickets for contesting elections to whom or who purchases electoral bonds and for what purpose is not the concern of this court as this court is required to apply the law and the evidence recorded as it is," the court observed in its judgement.

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Asserting that the law of approver was "more than 100 years old" and was not enacted to "falsely implicate the present petitioner", the court said the statements of approvers against the AAP leader would be judged during trial and it cannot hold a mini trial at this stage.

It said the present case was neither the first nor the last in which approvers’ statements were recorded and relied upon by the prosecution, and Kejriwal would be free to cross-examine the approvers at the stage of trial.

"To doubt and cast aspersions regarding the manner of granting pardon or recording statements of approvers amounts to casting aspersions on the judicial process since granting of pardon or recording of statement of the approver is not the domain of the investigating agency. It is a judicial process wherein a judicial officer follows the provisions of CrPC for recording the statement of approver and also granting or not granting pardon," the court said.

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"Without challenging the said process, to hold that pardon granted to approver was at the behest of ED in this case may be questioning the judicial process which is governed by the law and not by any government or investigating agency," it said.

The matter pertains to alleged corruption and money laundering in formulating and executing the Delhi government's excise policy for 2021-22 that was later scrapped.

Kejriwal was arrested by the ED on March 21, hours after the high court refused to grant him protection from coercive action by the federal anti-money laundering agency.

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