India Summons US Diplomat Over Comments On Arvind Kejriwal’s Arrest

India Summons US Diplomat Over Comments On Arvind Kejriwal's Arrest

United States’ Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Gloria Berbena leaving the MEA office.

New Delhi:

The government has objected strongly to remarks by a US State Department spokesperson on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest last week in connection with the alleged liquor policy scam.

The External Affairs Ministry summoned Gloria Berbena, the US’ Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, to a 40-minute meet at its office in Delhi on Wednesday afternoon. In a brief statement released shortly afterwards, the MEA warned of “unhealthy precedents and against “unwarranted aspersions”.

“States are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others, and this responsibility is even more so in case of fellow democracies. It could otherwise end up setting unhealthy precedents,” the External Affairs Ministry said.

“India’s legal processes are based on an independent judiciary which is committed to objective and timely outcomes. Casting aspersions on that is unwarranted,” the statement stressed.

On Tuesday the US State Department said it is monitoring reports of Mr Kejriwal’s arrest, and called on New Delhi to ensure “a fair and timely legal process” for the jailed Aam Aadmi Party leader.

READ | “Encourage Fair, Transparent Legal Process”: US On Kejriwal Arrest

The US State Department’s comments came, in turn, days after Germany’s Foreign Office stressed that Mr Kejriwal, like any other Indian citizen facing charges, is entitled to a fair and impartial trial.

The Indian government reacted strongly to the comment, summoning the German envoy and labelling the Foreign Office spokesperson’s remark “blatant interference in internal matters”.

READ | “Blatant Interference”: India Protests Germany’s Remarks On Kejriwal

“We see such remarks as interfering in our judicial process and undermining the independence of our judiciary,” the External Affairs Ministry said, “Biased assumptions are most unwarranted.”

Asked about India’s protest to Germany, the State Department spokesperson told Reuters, “We refer you to the German Foreign Ministry for comment on their discussions with the Indian government.”

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate last week in connection with the alleged liquor policy scam that has roiled his AAP and provoked furious protests from the opposition ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election. Mr Kejriwal was this week sent to jail till March 28.

NDTV Explains | Why Enforcement Directorate Arrested Arvind Kejriwal

The Enforcement Directorate believes the now-scrapped liquor policy provided an impossibly high profit margin of 185 per cent for retailers and 12 per cent for wholesalers. Of the latter, six per cent – over Rs 600 crore – were bribes and the money was allegedly used to fund the AAP’s poll campaigns.

Meanwhile, Arvind Kejriwal is in the Delhi High Court today to challenge his arrest.

The ED has labelled the Chief Minister as a key conspirator in this case, but Mr Kejriwal and party colleagues arrested in this matter – ex-Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, and former Health Minister Satyendar Jain – have all denied the charges.

The AAP and the opposition have hit out at the BJP-led central government for using central agencies, like the ED, to target rivals and critics before the general election. The AAP has criticised Mr Kejriwal’s arrest on grounds it was timed to interfere with his plans to campaign for the party.

The BJP has dismissed claims it uses central agencies as described by the opposition.

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