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Modi Govt summons German & US Diplomats for remarks on Kejriwal’s arrest, also warned of “unhealthy precedents and against “unwarranted aspersions”

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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”.

The MEA, in a statement, said the Indian government takes strong objection to the remarks of the Spokesperson of the US State Department about certain legal proceedings in India.

“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 India’s foreign ministry said in the statement.

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.

“We encourage a fair, transparent, and timely legal process for Chief Minister Kejriwal,” Reuters reported the US spokesperson saying in response to an emailed query about the case, in which India summoned a German envoy on Saturday to protest against his government’s remarks about the arrest.

On Saturday, India summoned German deputy chief of mission and lodged a strong protest against the country’s foreign ministry’s remarks on the arrest of Kejriwal.

The German envoy Georg Enzweiler was summoned by officials in MEA and was told that the German Foreign Ministry’s remarks on Kejriwal’s arrest were an interference in India’s judicial process and any “biased assumptions” were “most unwarranted”, an MEA official said.

On Friday Sebastian Fischer, spokesperson for Germany’s foreign office said, Berlin had taken note.

“We assume and expect that the standards relating to independence of judiciary and basic democratic principles will also be applied in this case,” Fischer said, adding that like anyone else facing accusations, Kejriwal 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”.

Delhi chief Minister and national convener of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on March 21 in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy-linked money laundering case. He was produced before a court which remanded him to the agency’s custody till March 28.

The case pertains to alleged irregularities and money laundering in framing and implementing the Delhi excise policy case 2022, which was scrapped later.

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 ₹ 600 crore – were bribes and the money was allegedly used to fund the AAP’s poll campaigns.

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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