Key India opposition leader sent to jail until April 15 in corruption case

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s custody extended less than three weeks before the country begins to vote in a seven-phase election.

An Indian court has sent Delhi Chief Minister and key opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal to jail until April 15 in a corruption case, less than three weeks before the country begins voting in a seven-phase national election.

India’s financial crimes investigating agency, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), had arrested Kejriwal last month in connection with allegations related to the capital city’s liquor policy and he had been remanded to the agency’s custody until April 1.

ED lawyers on Monday said Kejriwal had been “non-cooperative” and was “giving evasive replies”, asking the court to remand him to judicial custody for 15 days, news website Live Law reported.

Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) says he has been “falsely arrested” in a “fabricated” case ahead of the polls, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) deny political interference.

Kejriwal blamed Modi for his arrest. “What the prime minister is doing is not good for the country,” he told reporters on his way to the court.

All the senior leaders of AAP were already imprisoned in the same corruption case before Kejriwal’s arrest.

The action against the high-profile leader led to protests in the capital and the northern state of Punjab, which is also governed by his party, last week.

The court’s decision came a day after the INDIA bloc, an alliance of 27 opposition parties including AAP, came together at a rally in New Delhi to protest Kejriwal’s arrest and accused Modi of seeking to rig the election.

Besides AAP, several other opposition parties, including regional groups, are also facing action from federal agencies, which they say is “politically motivated”.

The country’s main opposition Congress party says it has been hit with large income tax demands which it says is an effort to “cripple it financially” before the election. Modi and the BJP have denied the allegations.

During a hearing in the Supreme Court on Monday, India’s Income Tax department said it will not pursue a 35-bn rupee ($420m) payment from the Congress until after the completion of the election in June. The court set July 24 for the next hearing on the tax matter.

The seven-phase election is set to be held from April 19 to June 1 and votes to be counted on June 4.

Kejriwal’s arrest has also drawn international attention, with the United States and Germany urging a “fair” and “impartial” trial, causing New Delhi to strongly object by asking them to stay away from its “internal” affairs.

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