Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will soon move an application for regular bail in the corruption case related to the alleged excise scam, his lawyer informed the Delhi High Court on Tuesday. The court, meanwhile, asked the CBI to respond to his plea challenging his arrest in the case involving alleged graft.

Justice Neena Bansal Krishna issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and asked it to file its reply within seven days.

The high court said Kejriwal’s counsel may file a rejoinder, if any, within two days thereafter.

It listed the matter for arguments on July 17.

Besides his arrest, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener has also challenged the trial court’s June 26 and June 29 orders by which he was remanded in CBI custody for three days and judicial custody till July 12, respectively.

Kejriwal, 55, was arrested by the CBI on June 26 from Tihar Jail, where he was in judicial custody in a connected money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

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Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, representing Kejriwal, submitted that an FIR was lodged by the CBI in August 2022 and he was summoned and questioned by the probe agency in April 2023 for nine hours.

“From April 2023 till now there has been no summons or questioning and now he has been arrested by the CBI on June 26. No new evidence or material is pointed out by CBI in the arrest memo/grounds of arrest to justify his arrest while he was in judicial custody (in ED’s money laundering case). So there cannot be any necessity or urgency to arrest him,” the senior counsel argued.

On being asked by the judge about whether he has filed any bail plea in the case, Singhvi said not yet but they are going to file it soon.

In an interim application, Kejriwal has sought his release from custody in the case till the adjudication of issues raised in the petition.

“Since the petitioner’s fundamental rights as guaranteed under … the Constitution are infringed, he is beseeching this court to direct his interim release until the issues that have far-reaching ramifications and are of grave legal, constitutional as well as public importance are adjudicated,” it said.

The petition said in the arrest memo of June 26, the grounds of arrest merely stated that Kejriwal was not cooperating with the investigation and not disclosing the facts known to him. The same cannot be a ground of arrest and mere non-cooperation is not the ground statutorily available to arrest the person, it said.

“Even after the arrest of the petitioner, in the remand application also CBI has not pointed out any new material which would have justified his arrest. All the facts and allegations made in the CBI remand application were part of the charge sheets dated November 24, 2022, April 25, 2023 and July 6, 2023 filed earlier.

“This fact was concealed by the CBI from the special judge in the remand application. In such a scenario there is no justification spelled out in the arrest memo for arresting the petitioner after 2 years of investigation,” the plea said.

Urging the court to hold his arrest as illegal and to direct his release forthwith, the AAP leader said serious prejudice and irretrievable injury would be caused to him if the petition is not allowed.

On June 29, Kejriwal was sent to judicial custody till July 12 in the corruption case by the trial court, which said his name has surfaced as one of the main conspirators, and as the investigation is still in progress, his further custodial interrogation may be required.

The CBI had claimed before the trial court that the AAP chief did not cooperate with the investigation and deliberately gave evasive replies. The federal agency had also expressed apprehension that Kejriwal might influence witnesses.

While sending Kejriwal to the CBI’s custody for three days on June 26, the trial court had refused to declare his arrest illegal, as sought by the defense counsel, saying the timing may be suspect but it is not the clear criterion for declaring an arrest as illegal

“Investigation is the prerogative of the investigating agency, however, there are certain safeguards provided in the law and at this stage, on the material on record, it cannot be said that the arrest is illegal. The agency, however, should not be overzealous,” the trial court had said.

Kejriwal, who was arrested by the ED on March 21, was granted bail by the trial court in the money laundering case on June 20. However, the trial court’s order was stayed by the high court.

The excise policy was scrapped in 2022 after the Delhi lieutenant governor ordered a CBI probe into alleged irregularities and corruption involving its formulation and execution.

According to the CBI and ED, irregularities were committed while modifying the excise policy and undue favors extended to the license holders.