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India elections

India top court grants temporary bail to opposition leader Kejriwal to campaign in elections

India top court grants temporary bail to opposition leader Kejriwal to campaign in elections
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters hold placards showing Arvind Kejriwal's in jail during a mass fasting protest against the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in New Delhi, India, 07 April 2024. AAP leaders and supporters have started a mass fasting protest against the arrest of AAP national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on March 21. The arrest was carried out by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED), a domestic law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing economic laws and controlling economic crimes, over alleged irregularities in Delhi's liquor excise policy case. EPA-EFE/HARISH TYAGI

NEW DELHI, May 10 (Reuters) - India's top court gave temporary bail to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a graft case on Friday, allowing him to campaign in the ongoing general elections, boosting the opposition alliance of which he is a key leader.

The court said the temporary bail would last until June 1, the last day of the seven-phase vote, and Kejriwal would have to surrender on June 2.

The poll has been marred by charges that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is using investigating agencies to hurt rivals, accusations the government denies.

The Enforcement Directorate, India’s financial crime-fighting agency, arrested Kejriwal – a staunch critic of Modi and a key opposition leader – on March 21 in connection with corruption allegations related to the capital territory’s liquor policy.

Kejriwal’s government and his Aam Aadmi Party have denied the corruption allegations. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party say that the investigating agencies are only doing their job and the government is not influencing them.

Kejriwal has been in pre-trial detention since April 1, and his wife Sunita has stepped in to campaign for his decade-old party in his absence.

India began voting on April 19 and elections to more than half the total 543 seats were completed with the third phase on May 7. The national capital territory will vote on May 25.

Voting concludes on June 1 and counting is set for June 4.

The Supreme Court, while hearing an appeal against Kejriwal’s arrest last week, said that it “may” consider granting “interim bail” or temporary bail to the high-profile leader “because of the elections” as the appeal against his arrest could take a while to conclude.

Kejriwal argued that he was arrested just before the vote to stop him from campaigning against Modi, who opinion polls suggest will win a comfortable majority and secure a rare third straight term.

His lawyer said Kejriwal is a serving chief minister, not a “habitual offender”.

ED lawyers argued that giving bail to a politician just to campaign will send a wrong message that there are different standards for them and other citizens. Kejriwal had to be arrested as he refused nine ED summons over six months to appear for questioning, they added.

The INDIA alliance of more than two dozen opposition parties has called the action against Kejriwal and other opposition leaders politically motivated to deny them a level playing field in the polls, accusations Modi and BJP reject.

Kejriwal’s arrest had drawn international attention, with Germany and the United States calling for a “fair” and “impartial” trial.

(Reporting by Sakshi Dayal; Editing by YP Rajesh)

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