The Delhi High Court today agreed to hear a petition seeking immediate release of Arvind Kejriwal, who was sent to jail after he refused to furnish bail bond in a criminal defamation complaint against him.
The petition submitted that he has been "illegally sent to judicial custody" on a wrong premise of law. The plea was mentioned by advocate Prashant Bhushan before a bench of justices B D Ahmed and S Mridul which said it would be listed tomorrow for hearing before the court concerned.
The petition challenged the May 21 and 23 orders of a magisterial court remanding Kejriwal in judicial custody for not furnishing bail bond in the criminal defamation complaint filed by BJP leader Nitin Gadkari, saying the same was not mandatory and he should have been allowed to give a written undertaking instead. The habeas corpus plea, filed on behalf of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, has made Gadkari and the Delhi government as parties.
A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or detainee before the court to determine if the person's imprisonment or detention is lawful. The petition contended that the orders were passed by the magistrate "on the assumption that when an accused appears on his own in a summon case on receiving a summoning order, which allows him to appear even through his pleader, he must furnish a bail bond and if he fails to do so, he would necessarily be sent to judicial custody."
It submitted that this understanding of the law is "totally erroneous." A former Delhi Chief Minister, Kejriwal was sent to judicial custody by a magistrate on May 21 for two days. On May 23, his custody was extended by 14 days till June 6 after he refused to furnish a bail bond when he was granted bail in the case. The magistrate had refused to review its May 21 order remanding Kejriwal in judicial custody for not furnishing the bail bond and had asked him to approach the higher court, challenging the decision.
Kejriwal was earlier summoned as an accused by the court in the defamation complaint in which Gadkari had alleged that he was defamed by the AAP leader, who had included his name in the party's list of "India's most corrupt".
Kejriwal's counsel had earlier argued before the trial court that in such cases where accused has not been arrested, there was no requirement to furnish a bail bond.
Gadkari's advocate had opposed the contention, saying criminal courts cannot review their order. The magistrate had said Kejriwal was told to give a bond only and it was a legal procedure to furnish bond for bail.
On May 21, the court had granted bail to Kejriwal in the defamation complaint, saying the offence under Section 500 of IPC was bailable and had asked him to furnish a personal bond. He, however, was taken into custody after he refused to give the bail bond, saying the case was politically motivated and he does not wish to seek bail. He had said that he was ready to give an undertaking that he would appear in the court whenever required.
The court had on February 28 summoned Kejriwal as an accused in the case, observing that statements allegedly made by the AAP leader have the effect of "harming the reputation" of the complainant.