Delhi Excise Policy Case: SC Tags BRS Leader Kavitha’s Plea with Pending Cases Challenging ED Summons

The Supreme Court on Monday tagged with other pleas, the petition of BRS leader K Kavitha seeking protection from arrest and challenging the summons by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case arising out of the alleged Delhi excise policy scam.

A bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi said it will hear the petitions of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader and others after three weeks.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal informed the bench that a similar plea filed by Nalini Chidambaram, a senior advocate and wife of Congress leader P Chidambaram, is pending on a similar issue of summoning of women accused by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju said after filing of Nalini Chidambaram’s petition, a judgement was passed by a three-judge bench upholding the provisions of the Prevention of the Money Laundering Act, which squarely covers the provisions for summoning an accused.

The bench said it would be appropriate if all the petitions are heard together, and listed the matter after three weeks.

Mehta sought permission to file a detailed note on the issue, which the bench allowed.

On March 15, the top court agreed to hear Kavitha plea seeking protection from arrest and challenging the summons issued by the ED.

On March 11, the 44-year-old BRS leader deposed before the ED to record her statement and was summoned again on March 16 for questioning. She was last quizzed for about 10 hours on March 21, which was her third day of deposition before the agency.

The BRS leader has denied all allegations against her.

Kavitha, during her questioning by the ED, was confronted with statements made by Hyderabad-based businessman Arun Ramchandran Pillai, who has been arrested in the case, apart from those of a few others allegedly involved in the case, according to official sources.

Kavitha’s statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Pillai was arrested by the ED earlier and he has moved a city court accusing the ED of forging his statements.

The ED had said Pillai “represented the south group”, an alleged liquor cartel linked to Kavitha and others that paid kickbacks amounting to about Rs 100 crore to the Aam Aadmi Party to gain a larger share of the market in the national capital under the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy for 2020-21.

The “south group”, according to the ED, comprises Sarath Reddy (promoter of Aurobindo Pharma), Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy (YSR Congress MP from Ongole in Andhra Pradesh), his son Raghav Magunta, Kavitha and others.

The agency had also alleged in Pillai’s remand papers that he “represented the benami investments” of Kavitha, who has also been questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with the case.

The ED has so far arrested 12 people in the case, including former Delhi deputy chief minister and AAP leader Manish Sisodia.

It has recorded the statement of Butchi Babu, a chartered accountant allegedly linked to Kavitha, where he said “there was a political understanding between K Kavitha and the chief minister (Arvind Kejriwal) and the deputy chief minister (Sisodia). In that process, K Kavitha also met Vijay Nair on March 19-20, 2021.”

Nair was arrested in the case by both ED and CBI. Butchi Babu has been arrested by CBI.

According to Butchi Babu’s statement, Nair was “trying to impress Kavitha with what he could do in the (excise) policy”.

“Vijay Nair was acting on behalf of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia,” the statement recorded by the ED said.

It is alleged that the Delhi government’s excise policy for 2021-22 to grant licences to liquor traders allowed cartelisation and favoured certain dealers who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge strongly refuted by the AAP.

The policy was subsequently scrapped and the Delhi lieutenant governor recommended a CBI probe, following which the ED registered the case under the PMLA.

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