Won’t repeat High Court’s mistake, if any, Supreme Court says in Arvind Kejriwal’s Bail plea

The Supreme Court heard a challenge to the Delhi High Court’s interim stay on Arvind Kejriwal’s bail order by the trial court

Today the Supreme Court heard Arvind Kejriwal’s appeal against the Delhi High Court’s interim stay against his bail order. Last Friday the Delhi High Court stayed a trial court’s order granting Kejriwal bail, just one day after it was allowed. The stay would be applicable while it decides the case and delivers a judgement.

The top Court’s vacation bench comprising Justices Manoj Misra and S.V. Bhatti commented that “normally stay order judgements are not reserved, they are passed on the spot. This is a bit unusual.”

Events thus far

On 20 June 2024, Special Judge Niyay Bindu of Rouse Avenue Courts granted bail to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the Delhi Liquor Policy case. On prima facie assessment of the case, she found that there had been no direct evidence tracing Kejriwal’s link to the gains from the alleged crime.

The following day, the Enforcement Directorate filed an urgent petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the bail order. A single judge vacation bench of the High Court comprising Justice Sudhir Kumar Jain heard the case on the same day, and reserved orders on the ED’s application to revoke the bail order. Justice Jain stated that he required a few days to go through the records and submissions made in the case. The High Court also held that until the order is announced, the implementation of the bail order will be put on hold, effectively blocking the release of Kejriwal.

Kejriwal: “Why can’t I be free?”

The hearings today were charged and chaotic as Senior Advocates A.M. Singvhi and Vikram Chaudhary for the petitioners, and Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the respondents clamoured to make their points.

Singhvi argued that the procedure of imposing a stay on bail on the very first day, and at the very beginning of the challenge, was unprecedented. He stated that there were many judgements of the Supreme Court that had emphatically said that once granted, bail cannot be stayed easily.

He requested the Supreme Court to impose a stay on the High Court’s stay order. The Bench expressed concerns at having to take a decision in haste as any order passed by them may have the effect of them pre-judging a case. They stated that they would wait for the Delhi High Court to upload the judgement with reasons.

“Why can’t I be free in the interim?” Singhvi asked. “If the [High Court] Judge can stay the Order at Mr. Raju’s mentioning, without reasons, and without an order uploaded, why can’t the Supreme Court stay the order without a judgement being given?” he insisted. Singhvi explained that in a “normal” case, where a process has been followed, the Supreme Court would have to wait for the decisions of the courts subordinate to it. In this instance, he explained, that was not the case. “Why should your Lordships be deferential to him?” Singvhi asked. “I know what I am saying,” he said, following up on his bold line of arguments. The Bench responded by rhetorically asking why they should “repeat the mistake (the mistake of the High Court) at our end?”

The Court will hear the matter next on 26 June 2024.