This week, the Enforcement Directorate summoned Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for questioning in a money laundering case related to an alleged excise policy scandal. The development has raised concerns about the possibility of AAP's leader being arrested after the ED's inquiry. Party officials maintain that, in such a scenario, the Delhi government will continue to function, even if Kejriwal is detained.
Party leader Saurabh Bharadwaj expressed the view that if the entire party were to face imprisonment, both the government and the party's operations would continue, and that the BJP aims for the imprisonment of party members. He suggested that the BJP wants to halt policies like free education, electricity, water, pilgrimage, hospitals, and community clinics. Nevertheless, he affirmed that Arvind Kejriwal would resist such efforts.
Imprisonment or Arrest of a Chief Minister in India: Is It Possible?
While the Indian President and Governors enjoy immunity from civil and criminal proceedings during their tenure, this protection does not extend to the Prime Minister or Chief Ministers. Notably, J. Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu became the first Chief Minister to be convicted while in office.
Can a Government or Chief Minister Continue to Function from Jail?
AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj asserted on Wednesday that the Delhi government and his party could operate even if the Chief Minister were arrested. Although this would lead to significant logistical challenges, there is no inherent law that prohibits a Chief Minister from staying in office during an investigation.
In reality, a Chief Minister is only disqualified from holding office if they are convicted. For instance, Jayalalithaa remained in office until she was convicted in the disproportionate assets case, which occurred about three years into her term.
It is important to note that some of Kejriwal's Cabinet members continued to work in their positions even after being arrested and imprisoned for the same case. For example, the former Deputy CM, Manish Sisodia, had his responsibilities redistributed two days after his arrest, and the former health minister, Satyendar Jain, resigned after spending more than a year in jail. Importantly, their roles as Delhi MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) remained unaffected.
Certainty of Kejriwal's Arrest: Fact or Speculation?
Kejriwal has been summoned under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, and sources indicate that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) will take his statement when he appears at the ED's office in Delhi on November 2. Party leaders are strongly claiming that he will be arrested on today, but as of now, there is no concrete evidence to support this.
Implications of Arvind Kejriwal's Arrest and Imprisonment
Although an arrest does not automatically result in a Chief Minister's removal from office, it would significantly complicate Kejriwal's duties.
Arvind Kejriwal heads both the Aam Aadmi Party and the Delhi government, but interestingly, he has been managing without two of his key deputies in recent months. While the party still has several prominent leaders who have not faced investigations, there is no obvious successor for the top leadership role if he were absent.
However, it is important to note that Arvind Kejriwal does not hold any specific government role in the Delhi government. In theory, his absence would not directly impact the various responsibilities under the Delhi Cabinet.
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