Arrest of Kejriwal seems to be nothing else but an act of political vendetta: PUCL

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Press Note
22nd March 2024

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) condemns the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out in the night of 21st March, 2024 from his residence. He was the third leader of his party arrested by the ED, under PMLA, for allegedly having received Rs. 100 crore kickbacks in the Delhi excise policy case, with Former Dy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia having been arrested 13 months ago on February, 26th 2023, Sanjay Singh, Rajya Sabha Member and spokesperson, arrested directly without any summons on 4th October, 2023.

The arrest of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is clearly to weaken the Aam Aadmi Party on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, just as all senior leaders and strategist of the party have been silenced and forced out of any form of public action.

Arvind Kejriwal is not the first sitting Chief Minister who was arrested. Earlier, on January, 31st January, 2024, Hemant Soren, was also arrested under sections of PMLA after raids and repeated summoning. It is clear for all to see, with the increasing trend of raiding, summoning, questioning and arresting opposition party leaders and political opponents, using ED, CBI and other agencies of the government, that the arrest of Chief Minister Hemant Soren or Arvind Kejriwal, who decided to ignore 9 summons by the ED by calling them illegal, has nothing to do with corruption.

Like with Arvind Kejriwal, Hemant Soren’s arrest was also seen as a move to destabilize the democratically elected government of Jharkhand with a clear majority. Tribal Groups called it is an attack and insult to the public sentiment of Jharkhand. Hemant Soren was the only tribal Chief Minister outside the northeastern states and has been fighting for the rights of the adivasis and the essence of Jharkhand.

The PUCL believes that these arrests are politically motivated action against the opposition governments and parties to intimidate and suppress them. Since past few years the entire country is witness to the ED being used as a handmaiden of the central political executive in an effort to crust the democratic opposition. The law used for the purpose is the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as amended, which gives wide ranging powers to the ED with extremely onerous bail conditions. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court in the case of Vijay Chaudhri has given its stamp of approval to the draconian provisions of the law.

It is no coincidence that 95% of the political leaders targeted by the ED under the Modi government are from the opposition. We have been witness to a large number of cases where ED raids opposition party members, arrests or threatens to arrest them, attaches their properties and the moment these individuals switch their support, ED backs out and all the so-called sins are whitewashed. The terror of ED is so widespread that even without any case being filed, mere apprehension of ED raids and arrests have led to politicians switching sides and supporting the central ruling establishment. While corruption in public life is well known across political parties, its selective use and misuse to browbeat the opposition seems to be one of the final nails in the coffin for democracy. Democracy cannot survive without a level playing field with the civil society, political opposition and independent statutory and constitutional institutions holding the ruling dispensation accountable.

The recent appointment of election commissions is only one example of how these institutions are being hollowed out. Civil Society is constantly under attack through the misuse of FCRA provisions and UAPA. The political opposition is sought to be crushed through various means including income tax raids and threats from ED. The recent disclosure by the State Bank of India strongly suggest that threat of ED is used to extort money.

In this context and with the impending elections, the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal seems to be nothing else but an act of political vendetta.

PUCL once again condemns the arrest of Mr. Kejriwal and demands that he should be immediately released on bail and allowed to fully participate in the coming elections. Similarly, former CM Hemant Soren should also be released on bail.

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