Delhi court dismisses CM Kejriwal's plea seeking more time with lawyer

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New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) A Delhi court on Wednesday dismissed the plea moved by incarcerated Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seeking permission to spend more time with his legal counsel to prepare for the cases pending against him in several parts of the country.

Special Judge Kaveri Baweja of Rouse Avenue Court dismissed the plea after hearing the matter for a brief time.

Special Counsel Zoheb Hossain for the Enforcement Directorate (ED) took objection to the plea saying that the applicant is seeking legal meetings five times a week, which is clearly against the manual of jail.

According to the manual, only one legal meeting is allowed in a week, and in special circumstances, two meetings may be allowed.

CM Kejriwal is already getting two legal meetings.

"If someone chooses to run the government from jail you cannot be treated exceptionally," ED said.

The Delhi High Court, which on Tuesday dismissed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's petition challenging his arrest by the ED and the trial court order sending him to the agency's custody, held that judges, "as custodians of justice, are bound by the law and not by political considerations" and cannot adjudicate "political matters".

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma, who heard the case, noted the ED's submission that they were in possession of enough material to arrest CM Kejriwal.

On April 1, the court sent CM Kejriwal to judicial custody till April 15 in connection with a money laundering case related to the alleged excise policy scam.

In the application filed on April 4, the Chief Minister had claimed that two weekly meetings with his lawyer, as permitted by the court, were insufficient as he faced multiple cases in various states and needed more time for consultations. He had urged the court to increase the number of meetings with his lawyer to five per week.

CM Kejriwal's counsel had stressed the multitude of pending cases and argued that the allocated one hour per week for legal consultations was inadequate for understanding and providing instructions.

He had also pointed out that Sanjay Singh, another accused, recently granted bail by a trial court on the Supreme Court's instructions, was granted three meetings despite facing fewer cases.

The ED, had, however, contested CM Kejriwal's request for more time with his lawyer, arguing against special privileges being extended to him solely based on his desire to govern from within the jail.

Citing violations of the jail manual, it had opposed CM Kejriwal's request for five weekly meetings with his lawyer, saying that he already enjoyed the privilege of two meetings per week, which deviates from the standard practice of one. It was said that despite CM Kejriwal's status outside the prison, he must be treated equally within it, without exceptions or special privileges.

The agency also accused CM Kejriwal of misusing legal interviews for purposes beyond consultation, raising concerns about his governance directives issued from behind bars.

As CM Kejriwal's counsel had argued over the unequal treatment of individuals and the need to balance their rights, the ED maintained that under valid judicial custody, certain rights are curtailed per jail manuals, rejecting the notion of absolute rights for individuals in custody.

The ED arrested CM Kejriwal on March 21 after questioning him for over two hours at his official residence in Delhi. It has termed the Chief Minister the "kingpin and the key conspirator" of the alleged excise scam in collusion with other ministers of the Delhi government, AAP leaders, and other persons.