Delhi chief minister Kejriwal remanded in custody for two weeks on corruption charge

AAP leader taken to Delhi's high-security Tihar Jail

Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party on his way to judicial custody on Monday. AP
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An Indian court has sent Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to a high-security prison after remanding him to two weeks of judicial custody, weeks ahead of India's national elections.

Mr Kejriwal was arrested last month by the country's financial police, the Enforcement Directorate, on allegations that he had received kickbacks in the process of bringing a now-scrapped liquor policy to the capital city that would have favoured private alcohol companies.

Both the chief minister and his ruling Aam Aadmi Party have denied the charge.

Mr Kejriwal, who refused to step down from the chief minister’s post, was produced in a special court after his custody with the Enforcement Directorate ended on Monday.

The federal agency has claimed that Mr Kejriwal is a "kingpin" in the alleged scam and told the court that he was “non-co-operative” while in custody.

He will remain in judicial custody until April 15 at Delhi's high security Tihar Jail.

Four other AAP leaders including Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia are also lodged in the jail for their alleged role in the scam.

Mr Kejriwal has unsuccessfully pleaded before courts to secure bail in the bribery case after he was charged under a stringent law dealing with money laundering.

AAP and other opposition parties have accused Mr Modi’s government of unleashing federal investigative agencies on its political rivals to intimidate and weaken them ahead of the elections to the lower house of the parliament.

"What Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing is not good for the country,” Mr Kejriwal told the media on Monday outside the courtroom.

“What was the motive for sending him to judicial custody? They interrogated him for 11 days but if they don’t want to interrogate him, what is the reason to keep a sitting chief minister behind bars?” party legislator Dilip K Pandey said.

Mr Pandey suggested the charges were aimed at disrupting the opposition in the lead-up to India's seven-phase national elections, which start on April 19.

“The main reason for arresting Arvind Kejriwal just before the Lok Sabha polls is to stop him, an INDIA alliance strong ally, from campaigning,” he said.

The opposition INDIA alliance bloc, of which AAP is a member, held a demonstration on Sunday under the “Save Democracy” banner. They accused Mr Modi of "match-fixing" the elections.

Last month the federal tax authorities froze the bank accounts of the Indian National Congress, India's most prominent opposition party, followed by a tax demand of $216 million over alleged violations.

India's top court on Monday deferred the hearing to July on a petition filed by Congress against the tax demand after the federal authorities told the judges that they did not plan to take coercive actions against the party over tax violations during the election period.

Thousands of supporters of the Congress and its allies from the INDIA bloc held a protest demonstration in New Delhi against the so-called witch hunt by Mr Modi’s government before the national elections.

Top leaders from Congress, including president Mallikarjun Kharge, leader Rahul Gandhi, and former party president Sonia Gandhi, attended the rally, which was also attended by regional leaders in a massive show of public support for the opposition.

"Why has he been sent to jail? They have only one goal to put him in jail during the Lok Sabha elections. The people of the country will answer to this dictatorship," said Sunita Kejriwal, the chief minister's wife.

Updated: April 01, 2024, 5:41 PM