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ED to name AAP accused in Delhi excise policy case | Latest News Delhi

The enforcement directorate (ED) on Tuesday informed the Delhi high court that it will name the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) an accused in the ongoing money laundering investigation related to alleged irregularities in the Delhi excise policy scam.

AAP leader Manish Sisodia appealed against the rejection of his bail pleas. (File photo)

The statement was made by ED’s special counsel Zoheb Hossain while opposing AAP leader Manish Sisodia’s bail plea in a hearing on Tuesday. “The AAP will also be made accused in the case and a supplementary charge sheet will be filed,” Hossain told a bench of justice Swarana Kanta Sharma.

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In a statement, AAP said: “The ED is functioning like a political wing of the BJP. Its intention from the very beginning of this fake investigation was to frame the AAP… If at all there is any money trail recovered, it is the 60 crore kingpin Sharath Reddy has given to the BJP. If ED had been doing an impartial probe, it would have arrested BJP president JP Nadda.”

Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor has said that it’s a standard practice of Aam Aadmi Party to accuse the investigation agencies of being politicalised when any adverse development against them comes out. “Instead of giving media reactions on ED’s submission in Court the AAP leaders should prepare to fight the allegations in court room where their leaders pleas have failed repeatedly,” said Kapoor.

The development follows previous assertions made by ED during Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s plea hearings. Justifying Kejriwal’s arrest on March 21, the agency argued that he was “vicariously liable for the actions of his party, potentially subjecting him to charges under Section 70(1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)”.

On the day, Sisodia was appealing against the rejection of bail by the trial court in the cases registered by ED and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the excise policy case.

The Delhi high court, in its April 9 ruling, upheld Kejriwal’s arrest, stating that a political party falls under the ambit of Section 70. The CM appealed the order in the top court, which, on May 10 granted Kejriwal a 21-day interim bail for political campaigning in the ongoing general elections.

Last week, ED filed a new charge sheet in the excise policy case, naming Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha and other associates, including Chanpreet Singh, who is accused of managing AAP’s funds — allegedly obtained through kickbacks — during the 2022 Goa assembly elections.

Sisodia approached the Delhi high court two days after the city court denied him bail for the second time on April 30. While rejecting Sisodia’s bail applications, special judge Kaveri Baweja ruled that Sisodia individually and along with other accused, contributed to the “delay” in court proceedings related to alleged irregularities in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy. In both verdicts, Baweja rejected Sisodia’s reasoning that he was entitled to seek bail by the top court’s October 30, 2023, order “in case the trial is protracted and proceeds at a snail’s pace in the next three months,” and had remarked that the consistent advancement of the case, despite attempts to impede it, did not warrant the label of a “snail’s pace”.

Arrested by CBI on February 26, 2023, and then by ED on March 9, 2023, Sisodia’s plea in the high court painted a picture that the city court’s order amounted to putting a death knell on the fundamental right of “fair trial” and “life and liberty” and suggested that the expectations of a fair trial and transparency by an accused would be discouraged. The petition underscored that Sisodia is a victim of political witch-hunt and has been arrested by the probe agencies with an ulterior motive of maligning his reputation.

In his petition, Sisodia claimed that CBI continued further investigation and arrested the accused persons despite filing multiple charge sheets. ED, Sisodia’s plea claimed, filed additional documents on December 6, 2023, to the “already filed complaints” with the delay of more than a year.

Sisodia’s legal team, led by senior advocates Dayan Krishnan and Mohit Mathur, contended that despite assurances from investigating agencies to conclude the trial within six to eight months, there has been no significant progress. They argued that Sisodia has been incarcerated for over 14 months, while other co-accused, including high-profile figures like AAP MP Sanjay Singh and Delhi CM Kejriwal, have been granted bail.

The ED and CBI countered these claims by emphasising the serious nature of charges and the potential for Sisodia to tamper with witnesses, if released. Hussain noted the numerous pleas filed by various accused, contributing to trial delays, and maintained that Sisodia played a key role in the alleged scam.

The court reserved its verdict on Sisodia’s plea.

Meanwhile, ED’s inclusion of AAP as an accused in the supplementary charge sheet marks a significant escalation in the case, which pertains to accusations of corruption, money laundering, and irregularities in the formulation and implementation of the excise policy.

The Delhi excise policy case has embroiled several high-profile names, including Kejriwal and BRS legislator Kavitha, who is presently incarcerated in Capital’s Tihar jail.

AAP MP Sanjay Singh’s release on bail earlier this month came after the top court asked the agency why Singh should be kept behind bars after serving six months in jail, considering that “there doesn’t appear to be any concrete evidence against him, and no money has been recovered linking him to the alleged money laundering offence”.

Another AAP lawmaker Satyendar Jain is also lodged in Tihar jail over charges of money laundering, albeit in a different case.

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