Several Aam Aadmi Party leaders under legal scrutiny

New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), once lauded for its anti-corruption stance and promise of clean governance, finds itself embroiled in a series of legal battles as several of its top leaders face arrest and investigation in various cases.

From Delhi to Punjab, the party’s reputation is under strain as allegations of corruption and misconduct swirl around key figures.

Just before the scheduled Lok Sabha elections, the AAP National Convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was arrested on Thursday by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from his official residence following hours of questioning in the alleged excise policy scam.

The other two top faces who were earlier arrested in the excise policy case are AAP MP Sanjay Singh and former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

The argument put forth by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is that the 2021-22 Delhi liquor policy offered unusually generous profit margins, with wholesalers enjoying a 12 per cent margin and retailers a staggering 185 per cent. Allegedly, a significant portion of the wholesalers’ profit, 6 per cent, was intended as kickbacks for AAP leaders.

Additionally, it is alleged that the “South Group” provided an advance sum of Rs 100 crore to Vijay Nair, who had ties to the AAP and served as the party’s communication in-charge.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Prior to it, AAP Minister Satyender Jain faced arrest by the ED in May 2022, accused in a separate money laundering case involving alleged hawala transactions. Jain, who has also been implicated in an excise policy ‘scam,’ symbolises the depth of the legal quagmire AAP finds itself in.

On March 18, the Supreme Court dismissed the regular bail petition filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain in connection with an alleged money laundering case.

Dismissing the plea, a Bench headed by Justice Bela M. Trivedi ordered the AAP leader to immediately surrender before the jail authorities.

The Bench, also comprising Justice Pankaj Mithal, refused to entertain the request made by Jain’s counsel seeking a week’s time to surrender.

“All appeals (including the plea filed by Ankush Jain and Vaibhav Jain, the other co-accused in the case) are dismissed. Mr. Satyendar Jain will have to surrender forthwith,” it ordered.

Meanwhile, AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan walks a tightrope, currently out on bail but entangled in legal proceedings related to illegal recruitments and financial misappropriation during his tenure as chairman of the Delhi Waqf Board. The courts have found sufficient evidence to proceed against Khan, casting a shadow over his political future.

Recently in March, a Delhi court and High Court, both, dismissed AAP legislator Amanatullah Khan’s anticipatory bail plea in connection with the Delhi Waqf Board money laundering case.

The case pertains to a property worth Rs 36 crore in Okhla being allegedly acquired with illicit funds, purportedly influenced by Khan, who reportedly handed over Rs 8 crore in cash.

During the investigation, the ED considered FIRs filed earlier by the CBI, ACB, and the Delhi Police.

The ED had said that the property was bought at Khan’s behest, and presented with evidence of Rs 27 crore cash transaction.

Adding to the party’s woes is the case of former councillor Tahir Hussain, now incarcerated in connection with various cases, including allegations stemming from the 2020 Delhi riots and money laundering charges. Despite being granted bail in one case, Hussain remains in judicial custody, facing the weight of the law.

Hussain along with co-accused persons, is also facing trial for various charges including under Section 307 read with Section 120B and 149 of the Indian Penal Code.

Adding to the list is AAP MLA Somnath Bharti, who was arrested for allegedly assaulting AIIMS security guards in September 2016. The incident led to the filing of an FIR against him on September 11 at the Hauz Khas police station by the AIIMS Chief Security Officer.

Previously, Bharti, who now represents the Malviya Nagar constituency, faced arrest by Delhi police in December 2015 following accusations of attempted murder and domestic violence levelled against him by his wife.

Sandeep Kumar, who served as the minister of SC/ST Welfare and Women and Child Welfare in Delhi under Arvind Kejriwal, represented the Sultan Pur Majra constituency.

However, his tenure was marred by scandal when a sex scandal involving him surfaced, leading to his immediate dismissal. He was subsequently arrested in 2016 after a woman implicated him in a rape case linked to the sex CD controversy.

Dinesh Mohaniya, an MLA from the Sangam Vihar constituency, faced legal trouble in June 2016 when he was booked for allegedly misbehaving with a woman. He was arrested on charges of molestation and sexual harassment. Additionally, a second FIR was lodged against him in June 2016 for reportedly slapping a 60-year-old man.

Another AAP leader, Prakash Jarwal, the representative of the Deoli constituency, was arrested in July 2016 on accusations of sexually harassing a woman. Additionally, he faced arrest in 2014 following an incident where he allegedly slapped an employee of the Delhi Jal Board.

In November 2022, the Anti-Corruption Branch arrested Om Singh, the brother-in-law of AAP MLA Akhilesh Pati Tripathi along with his two associates in a cash-for-ticket case.

The ACB officials had said that they allegedly accepted a bribe of Rs 35 lakh for giving a ticket for the upcoming MCD election to the wife of an AAP worker.

The list of AAP leaders facing legal scrutiny extends beyond Delhi’s borders.

In Punjab, the arrest of Bathinda Rural MLA Amit Rattan Kotfatta by the state Vigilance Bureau in a bribery case is another blow to the party’s reputation. Kotfatta follows in the footsteps of former health minister Vijay Singla, marking a disturbing trend of graft allegations against AAP leaders in the state.

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