Friday, April 12, 2024

Can Kejriwal Govern Delhi From Custody?

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED), recently arrested Arvind Kejriwal in the Delhi Liquor Policy scam. Following this, Surjit Singh Yadav filed a PIL seeking removal of Arvind Kejriwal from the post of Chief Minister. Since then, the larger question looms that – whether Kejriwal can govern while in custody?

Atishi Marlena, the Finance Minister for Delhi, has stated time and time again that Kejriwal will make the decisions, even from custody. However, is this feasible or not is the question.

Legal Aspects-

Since past few days there’s been a ruckus in the national capital with AAP leaders staging protests like “Gherao” of PM residence despite not getting permission from the police. Then there’s the CM order fiasco which is alleged to be forged and the ED is investigating. If things continue on similar lines and if Kejriwal doesn’t get relief from the court.

Then as per Article 239 AB of the Constitution, the LG can recommend President’s Rule in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. He can invoke the provision of ‘breakdown of constitutional machinery,’ and recommend President’s rule.

Apart from this there’s RPA of 1951 which bars legislators who are convicted for certain offences from remaining in office. As per this Act, if Kejriwal gets convicted and sentenced then he might get disqualified from contesting elections.

According to Justice Ajay Rastogi, Former Supreme Court judge, “purely on a legal basis whether it would be befitting for such a CM to continue from custody, in my opinion, no.”

Practical Aspects-

Coming to the practicality of AAP’s demand of Kejriwal running government from custody. First and foremost, For a CM to function efficiently, he needs to have necessary ground level information. Such information is provided by officials like Chief Secretary or Principal Secretary of the concerned department. Then a sitting CM has to study n number of official files before taking a decision on the same. The decision making process requires cabinet meetings and his signature.

However, since he’s under ED custody, any kind of stationary or electronic gadget is not allowed to him. Moreover, he cant call a cabinet meeting there. Even if he insists then also all the documents would have to pass through the jail superintendent’s permission. All this further create ruckus, security issues and would also hamper the investigation.

When asked Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi said, “Chief Minister is supposed to meet his Ministers, sign his files. How will he do that? The jail rules only allow two visits a week, how will you deal with that? That is the legal bar. I am sure they will have to appoint someone else. Neither legally, practically or constitutionally is it possible for a Chief Minister to run a government from the confines of a jail.”

Moral Aspects-

Though there’s no legal provision governing morality of Public representatives. Yet we have provisions in form of Model Code of Conduct and an inherent societal expectation. As a public representative, being elected by people one has to have a clean image and have some morality while representing them.

All in All,

even though Mr Arvind Kejriwal is not yet convicted still he’s in custody. Running a government while in custody seems impractical and not advisable for it restricts movements and makes it difficult to chair important discussions. However, a PIL hearing is underway so lets see what the court decides. Whether Kejriwal can run the government from custody, is something we have to wait and watch.


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