On Tuesday evening (28 February), at the end of a busy workday, a Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha sat to hear Delhi Deputy Chief Minister (CM) Manish Sisodia’s plea against his arrest. But they refused to entertain it.
The arrest was carried out by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday. It pertains to an alleged corruption case in the (since-scrapped) Delhi government’s Excise Policy of 2021 and 2022.
The court asked Sisodia to approach the High Court, availing the alternative remedy under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code instead. "We are here but why don't you go to Delhi High Court?" the CJI asked.
This order came despite Sisodia’s counsel citing cases such as Vinod Dua and Arnab Goswami’s, in which the apex court had permitted invocation of Article 32 (which empowers a petitioner to directly approach the apex court for enforcement of their fundamental rights).
So why did the apex court turn Singhvi's plea away?
Well, the bench drew distinctions between the cases cited and Sisodia’s plea. They told Singhvi that the Vinod Dua case was of a journalist facing a sedition charge (while Sisodia is a deputy chief minister facing charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act), and Goswami had first gone to the High Court.
When the lawyer pointed out that the Delhi High Court judge responsible for the roster is not holding a sitting on most days as he is busy with the UAPA Tribunal work in a PFI case, the apex court reportedly remained unmoved.
But what were the rulings in Goswami and Dua's case?
And before that, what are the offences alleged against Manish Sisodia? What else have his lawyers said? And why was he remanded?
Manish Sisodia has been booked under sections 120B read with 477A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
What Else Had His Counsel Argued?
Senior Advocate AM Singhvi pointed out that in accordance with the Arnesh Kumar guidelines: ”Per se, the arrest would be illegal because (the offence that Sisodia is arrested for is punishable by) less than seven years.”
Thus, Singhvi said, in order to arrest him, the authorities need absolute necessity of arrest ie the triple test - flight risk, not attending summons, criminal interference. None of these arise, he noted, as:
– His client, by virtue of his high government profile, isn’t at flight risk
– Has complied with all summons
– Has no record or likelihood of evidence tampering
In Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar (2014), the Supreme Court had emphasised that arrests should be an exception, in cases involving offences punishable with seven years or less.
Singhvi also cited the apex court judgment in Satender Kumar Antil versus Central Bureau Of Investigation & Another, in which the bench had directed:
“The courts will have to satisfy themselves on the compliance of Section 41 and 41A of the Code. Any non-compliance would entitle the accused for grant of bail.”
The court had also said that “any dereliction” on the part of the investigating agencies in complying with the above-mentioned sections, as well as the Arnesh Kumar guidelines, “has to be brought to the notice of the higher authorities by the court followed by appropriate action.”
On Monday, the special CBI judge had remanded Sisodia to five days judicial custody, noting that: “It is true that he cannot be expected to make self incriminating statements, but the interests of justice and of a fair investigation require that he should come up with some legitimate answers to the questions which are being put to him by the IO.”
Appearing on behalf of Singhvi before the special CBI judge, Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan had argued: “Someone is not willing to say something you want to hear, is no ground for remand.”
And What Had the Apex Court Ruled in Arnab Goswami & Vinod Dua's Cases?
In June 2021 the apex court had quashed a sedition case against Vinod Dua, noting:
A few months before that, in November 2020, the apex court had granted bail to TV personality Arnab Goswami in an abetment to sucide case, reprimanded the High Courts for failing to exercise jurisdiction, and had said:
The bench had also pointed out:
"If we as a constitutional court do not lay down law and protect liberty then who will?"
Sisodia, meanwhile, remains in custody with no bail in sight. On Tuesday evening, shortly after the Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain his plea, he resigned from the Delhi cabinet.
“I am stepping away till the charges against me are proven false," he wrote in his resignation letter.
(With inputs from NDTV, Livelaw and Bar and Bench.)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)