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Liquor policy case: BRS leader K Kavitha is remanded to ED custody by a Delhi court

Following her arrest in the Delhi excise policy case yesterday, K Kavitha, a legislator for the Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) and the daughter of former Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, was placed under ED custody by a Delhi court on Saturday for a period of one week. It was ordered by Rouse Avenue Special Judge (PC Act) MK Nagpal that Kavitha stay in ED custody until March 23, 2024. The ED had requested ten days in detention.

After an ED team examined the home and questioned Kavitha, the agency detained her on March 15 in the evening in Hyderabad. Kavitha was questioned by the ED three times in the previous year and once more this year, but she chose not to appear in court, citing a ruling from the Supreme Court that shielded her from any coercive measures.  Crucially, Kavitha’s plea case challenging the ED’s summons is still pending before the Supreme Court and is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, March 19, at the latest.

Today’s hearing

Senior Advocate Vikram Chaudhary, who was representing Kavitha, contended today that her detention yesterday was an obvious misuse of authority and that it went against an effective stay of arrest that was in place until at least March 19.

“The apex court’s instructions have been broken by them (ED). Along with other accused ladies, I sought the Supreme Court when they issued a summons. On September 15, 2023, in the apex court, just before the court was going to issue an order, the ASG said that I would not be placed under custody. The arrest is vexatious. There’s no getting away from the grips today. The same claim was made when they asked the Supreme Court for an adjournment even in December, Chaudhary contended. Chaudhary stated that the ASG’s desire to have the Supreme Court record its guarantee was the only reason it had not done so.

“Please don’t record, but I am bound by it, ASG said; therefore, the apex court decided not to record her statement. They broke into this woman’s home under the guise of searches just a few hours after the Supreme Court hearing on Friday, March 15. An arrest is reported at 5:20 PM. How could they not wait the full three days? Do you (ED) intend to overrule the Indian Supreme Court? Do you believe you are unbeatable?” Chaudhary continued. These submissions were denied by the ED, which was represented by Special Counsel Zoheb Hossain.

“We have never told a court that we won’t use any kind of coercion. Never was a statement made… We will send her a summons in ten days, the statement said. Please don’t rely solely on news reports.” However, when the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear Kavitha’s case on March 19, the trial court questioned if there was any urgency that justified her detention on March 15. “If the matter was coming up for hearing on March 19, what was the urgency to arrest her?” the judge in charge inquired.

In his response, Hossain emphasized that the directives issued by the top court made no explicit mention of any limitations on the ED’s use of coercion.

“In the absence of an express order, you cannot assume that you will receive an interim remedy. That is the nation’s established body of law. It is not our fault if they have not been assiduous enough to demand a non-coercive order. There is a prayer for no coercive action, but no order to that effect has been issued. “The Supreme Court has not been consulted regarding any breach of undertaking,” he stated.  The grounds for Kavitha’s arrest in the liquor policy matter were also provided by the ED’s attorney.

Hossain remarked, “We have statements saying 33% of profits will go to madam, and we have confirmed that the’madam’ is the present accused,” accusing her moreover of destroying evidence. He insisted that Kavitha’s arrest and the search of her property complied with all legal requirements.

“About twenty people stormed in, interrupting the search that could have ended earlier. This is an obvious impediment. There was a commotion. He said, “They themselves took the footage and posted it on social media. Remarkably, there was a brief discussion during the hearing over whether the ED’s recent action against Kavitha was influenced by Supreme Court judge Justice Sanjay Kaul’s retirement.

“It was ED who requested a postponement. They begin sending me summonses the day Justice SK Kaul, a senior Supreme Court judge, retires, Chaudhary contended. Hossain retorted, “I strongly object to this submission.”

Notably, prior to his retirement in December 2023, a bench presided over by Justice Kaul had been deliberating over the plea submitted by K. Kavitha and associated petitions against the ED. Right now, Justices M. Bela Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal are hearing the case.

According to the ED, Kavitha had ties to the “South Group” lobby of alcohol dealers who hoped to gain more influence from the now-canceled Delhi excise scheme for 2021–2022.

One of the defendants in the case, Vijay Nair, is said to have accepted bribes of at least ₹100 crores on behalf of AAP leaders from the “South Group,” which is purportedly headed by Sarath Reddy, K Kavitha, and Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy.

According to the same PTI story, businessman Arun Ramchandran Pillai, who is based in Hyderabad and was previously arrested in connection with the case, allegedly had strong contacts with Kavitha and was questioned by the ED during their most recent round of interrogation.

Kavitha, on the other hand, has maintained that she did nothing illegal and has accused the central government of abusing the ED in order to acquire control over Telangana.

In the excise policy case, Kavitha is the third well-known political figure to be detained by the ED. AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh and former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia are already incarcerated in connection with the issue.  Arvind Kejriwal made his appearance in relation to the same case earlier today before the Rouse Avenue Court. Kejriwal is the target of a complaint brought by ED for failing to comply with the agency’s summons. The judge subsequently granted him bail, and the next hearing is scheduled for April 1.

Ahir Mitra
Ahir Mitra

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