Arvind Kejriwal Leaves Jail After 50 Days, Says “Need To Fight Dictatorship”

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was released from jail Friday evening (File).

New Delhi:

Arvind Kejriwal was released from Delhi’s Tihar Jail Friday evening – 50 days after he was jailed on corruption charges linked to the alleged liquor policy scam and hours after the Supreme Court granted bail till June 1. The Aam Aadmi Party’s leader’s release means he can now campaign for the AAP, and the INDIA bloc, in the ongoing election, in which Delhi’s seven seats will vote on May 25.

As he walked out of Tihar Jail’s Gate No 4, Mr Kejriwal was welcomed by a mob of flag-waving and slogan-shouting AAP workers, as well as his wife Sunita Kejriwal and senior leaders like Atishi and Saurabh Bhardwaj, who have emerged as the party’s public faces while the Chief Minister was in jail.

Mr Bhardwaj said Arvind Kejriwal’s release will be a “gamechanger” in favour of the INDIA bloc.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann was also present. 

“Thank All The Judges…”

In his first public comments after leaving jail, Mr Kejriwal thanked “all the judges of the top court” and, with one eye on the election in Delhi on may 25, called on voters to “‘save the country for dictatorship”.

“I want to thank all of you… you gave me your blessings. I want to thank the judges of the Supreme Court, it is because of them that I am in front of you. We have to save the country from dictatorship…”

Mr Kejriwal also attributed his release to Lord Hanuman, and said he planned to visit the Hanuman temple in Delhi’s Connaught Place on Saturday morning.

He will be on bail till June 1 – the final phase of voting for the seven-stage election. He is to surrender by June 2. The court turned down pleas to extend his bail but said it would hear arguments for extended relief next week.

Arvind Kejriwal Bail Hearing 

The court had been hearing arguments by Mr Kejriwal challenging his arrest, when it set the cat among the pigeons by noting it would also hear arguments for bail for the AAP leader.

Underlining Mr Kejriwal’s position as an elected Chief Minister, a bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta said, “There are elections (and) these are extraordinary circumstances, and he is not a habitual offender. This is a question of public interest.”

READ | Arvind Kejriwal Gets Big Supreme Court Relief. Interim Bail Till June 1

Today, as it granted Mr Kejriwal bail, the court reiterated that point, observing the AAP boss, as a Chief Minister and the leader of a national party, does not pose any threat.

“… serious accusations have been made but he has not been convicted. He does not have any criminal antecedents…” the court said, as it also shot down arguments about the period of release.

“21 days will not make any difference… for one-and-a-half years he was there… he could have been arrested before or after (the election) also,” the Supreme Court said.

READ | “Depriving Right To Life”: Supreme Court On Arvind Kejriwal Plea

In a key moment earlier this week, the court – which had been hearing a petition by Mr Kejriwal challenging his March 21 arrest – said probe agencies could not “selectively pick” between material that spoke to an individual’s innocence and that which may confirm guilt.

“You are depriving a person of their right to life,” the court had said, also questioning the arresting agency, the Enforcement Directorate for a delay of two years. “It is not good for any agency to say that it takes two years to unearth… now when will the trial start?”

ED Opposed Bail For Kejriwal

On Thursday the ED, which had opposed bail, filed an affidavit outlining its objections.

The agency – criticised for allegedly operating at the behest of the ruling BJP to target and harass political rivals before the election – said no politician could claim “special status” higher than that of an ordinary citizen, and is as liable to be arrested and detained for committing offences as any other citizen.

READ | “No Fundamental Right To Campaign”: ED Opposes Bail For Kejriwal

There is no “fundamental” right that will allow Arvind Kejriwal the right to bail to campaign, the ED argued.

The agency also pointed out that no political leader had ever been granted bail for campaigning and said that releasing Mr Kejriwal from jail to canvas for his party candidates would set a wrong precedent.

“Scam Mastermind Will Be Back In Jail”, Says BJP

The BJP, meanwhile, has sought to pour cold water over the opposition’s joy in the release of Mr Kejriwal, noting he would be out only for a short period and will have to return to jail.

READ | “Scam Mastermind Will Be Back In Jail”: BJP On Kejriwal’s Release

Alleged Delhi Liquor Policy Scam

The ED claims the liquor policy (now scrapped) created by the AAP government allowed it to receive kickbacks for license allotment, which was to the tune of Rs 100 crores that was used to fund its poll campaigns. The AAP and Mr Kejriwal have firmly denied the charges and have accused the BJP of making false accusations to discredit the party and its leaders before the election.

Read More: Arvind Kejriwal Leaves Jail After 50 Days, Says “Need To Fight Dictatorship”

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