Kejriwal Gets an Interim Bail: the Impact on Election 2024

Bhubaneswar: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has got interim bail from the Supreme Court for 21 days pending a final decision from Supreme Court, that he will be out. He cannot function as a chief minister from jail but he can campaign for the Aam Admi Party. The Supreme Court also questioned why the enforcement directorate did not move to arrest him either earlier or post the elections. But the Supreme Court made this argument that these 21 days would have no difference to the case, the court had to be cognizant of the fact that the election campaign is on. When the enforcement directorate and its law officers demanded that Arvind Kejriwal be forbidden from speaking on the case, the Supreme Court rejected the demand and said just like it happened in the Sanjay Singh case, another AAP leader arrested in the same Delhi liquor scam case. The government side is allowed to debate this case as aggressively as it wants to in public. The only restriction Arvind Kejriwal has now is that he can not return to his official duty as a chief minister but he is free to be the political face of the AAP.

The impact it will make on the Delhi elections as well as the opposition camp, also the rolling camp further is something to watch out for. This case is very curious because the Supreme Court has neither pronounced any judgment about the arrest as Arvind Kejriwal has challenged the arrest itself, nor does he have a permanent bail on arvind Kejriwal. He has only got an interim bail for 21 days which means the government, which is vindictive and the enforcement directors get a clear message that if they arrest anybody for political reasons then they are playing with the democracy of the country and trying to obliterate the level playing field. So as a democracy, the country cannot afford this.

The Supreme Court questions the timing of the arrest, when the case has been going on for several years why to arrest the chief minister of Delhi just before the election? This could have been done either before or after the election. The timing has been put under scrutiny. On the other hand, the BJP spikes persons are claiming Arvind Kejriwal had been given a special privilege by the Supreme Court. It cannot be the reason for anyone to get bail that I am contesting the election and have to campaign so should be granted bail. Tomorrow, if any common man accused/charged with a serious crime, asks for bail to serve his livelihood/ profession, will that be granted? Kejariwal has rather sought a favour for being a politician. So this order of bail to the CM of Delhi is very unprecedented and is favourable to him as Hemant Soren and Kavita are still in custody.

There is a decision already there in the Supreme Court that the People’s Union for Civil Liberties says democracy is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. It is also said that free and fair election is the feature of democracy. It is very wrong to politicise this issue because he has not been equipped, he is in a petition saying that the arrest is illegal which is yet to be decided. So it is very premature for Kejriwal and his supporters to declare victory. As per the Supreme Court’s order, Kejriwal is not allowed to talk about his role in the present case in any circumstances during this period. In the name of free and fair elections, he cannot go and tell the people I have nothing to do with the case and I am innocent. But Kejariwal can discuss the issue in general.

AAP spokesperson says, there is no case filed against arvind Kejriwal. The enforcement directorate has not filed any charge sheet against Kejriwal. So it remains to be seen what the specifics of the lines the Supreme Court writes where it says he cannot discuss his case. It has not happened in the history of our country that a national leader has been arrested in a manner where there is no charge sheet against him. It is unprecedented that someone with no due legal process has been arrested. So he did not ask for bail, the interim bail was granted without any bail process happening because he was challenging the very arrest itself.

The lawyers responded to this by saying the narrative that one cannot get arrested without a charge sheet is wrong. There are two kinds of arrests, one is pretrial, which is why there are a lot of under-trials in the country that are very unfortunate. There is a situation where there is pre-trial arrest. The trial begins after the charge sheet. So it is wrong proposition to say that one cannot be arrested before a trial. Secondly, when people go for bail these are the aspects that are considered like whether the person who is coming out is a flight risk, or whether can he manipulate the evidence. There is another condition imposed on him that he will not interact with any of the witnesses.

Amidst a lot of political narratives emerging, the major decision of the Supreme Court remains to watch out for on the 1st of June. Here the Supreme Court has not taken any political side either to the BJP or to the AAP. It is only standing up for the democratic principles. Elections are a very important event in democracy, that’s what it has highlighted. Both the political parties should take a back seat and not politicise this. The reality today is the Supreme Court has not given any verdict that his application for arrest is illegal. They have just given him interim bail. The murderer accused and people who are accused of drug offences get interim bail. It is neither an acquittal nor a conviction. So there should not be any hyperbole on the case from both sides.