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Sisodia’s defence indicates towards fissures in AAP’s ranks

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By Sidharth Mishra

Turbulent times for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) refuses to end. Last week another of its prominent faces, Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate officials. The matter once again related to Delhi Excise scam under which party’s number two Manish Sisodia continues to cool his heels in the Tihar Jail. Party’s another ace Satyender Jain is behind the bars in another money laundering case  

A party, whose one of the mainstays of success and survival has been creating favourable perceptions on the social media, once again did well to overcome the setback last week by pushing a suitable narrative to cover up the arrest -- it was not be a mere coincidence that the Supreme Court observations in Manish Sisodia’s bail argument, which suited AAP, got more coverage than Sanjay Singh’s arrest.

While hearing the bail plea of former Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia last week, the apex court remarked that the inferences in the case against Manish Sisodia seemed to be based on hearsay and will fall flat in two minutes. While the newspapers went to town with court’s observation, not many reported the government’s counter. Additional Solicitor General SV Raju responded to question from the bench saying, “Question is, is he not directly or indirectly involved in illegal activity or process? ... When you make a policy that triggers bribes which acts as proceeds of crimes.”

The court had then pointed out “Generation of money is not an offense under Section 3 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA),” which attracted a quick response from ASG who said, “Unless money exists, you cannot put it to use.” Anyway, the argument may continue and going by the merit, the apex court may give the bail or may not give the bail.

However, what many did not report was the nature of the arguments forwarded by Sisodia’s counsel. Advancing the argument, Sisodia’s counsel told the bench that change in excise policy was not an individual decision taken by the jailed minister but it was recommended by a committee and approved by the Group of Ministers, the Delhi Cabinet and finally by the Lieutenant Governor. 

There is merit in what Sisodia’s counsel had said and even the apex court remarked that if such was the matter why wasn’t the Aam Aadmi Party made an accused, though the comment was later clarified with the bench saying that Sisodia had not raised this ground to defend himself but they had asked the agency to respond to the question on not arraigning the party as an accused in money laundering.

Despite the Supreme Court clarification, advancing of such argument clearly shows that Sisodia is not ready to take the blame for the scam alone, which may get proven or not proven in the court of law. Such legal arguments clearly show the fissures which has developed within the party leadership. 

In the parliamentary form of government, the principle of collective responsibility is considered the fulcrum of functioning. There are two pillars on which this principle rests - ministers should be able to conduct honest and open conversation before reaching to the final decision and this would firm up the position of Cabinet where it can be agreed upon by all the ministers.

If such is the argument being forwarded by Sisodia’s counsel, what stops the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from reaching the doors of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.  No less a person than the centre’s information minister Anurag Thakur has indicated what was in the pipeline. Reacting to development, Thakur had said, “The kingpin is still out now. His number will also come.”

(Firs Published in The Morning Standard)


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