New Delhi: AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal was Wednesday sent to judicial custody in a defamation case filed by BJP leader Nitin Gadkari, hours after he apologised for resigning as Delhi's chief minister in February.
AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. File pic
Kejriwal, 45, was first sent to a lock-up in the court complex before being taken in a police van to the Tihar Central Jail, where a large number of Aam Aadmi Party workers promptly staged a noisy protest.
Police detained several AAP leaders - Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh among others - when they refused to budge from the protest site.
This led to a traffic jam in areas like Delhi Cantt in south Delhi.
Another AAP leader, Yogendra Yadav was dragged from the protest site and put into a Delhi Police bus.
Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha ordered the two-day judicial custody after Kejriwal, accused of slandering Gadkari by calling him "corrupt", refused to furnish a bail bond of Rs.10,000.
"Let the accused be sent to judicial custody and be produced before the court May 23," she said.
The judge gave the order after Kejriwal told the court: "I am fighting corruption. I will not seek bail as I have not done anything wrong."
In keeping with a stand he took earlier, Kejriwal told the court he would not furnish a bail bond as the case was a political one.
The judge asked: "What is the problem with furnishing a bail bond? You are representing the Aam Aadmi Party. I request you to behave as an aam aadmi (common man)."
"This not a case where the accused, due to financial inability, is unable to furnish bail bond. The accused is just adamant..." then judge said.
The sudden development came just after Kejriwal offered his first public apology for abruptly resigning as Delhi's chief minister Feb 14 and sought fresh elections in the capital.
Kejriwal made the statement a day after he told Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung not to dissolve the 70-member house so that he could explore the possibility of again forming a minority government.
But a pensive Kejriwal told the media: "The chances of forming a government are almost negligible. In such a situation, holding discussions does not make sense."
"We have decided that we will prepare for elections (in Delhi)."
Referring to his resignation after a 49-day stint following his failure to get the Jan Lokpal bill passed, Kejriwal said: "We made a mistake, and I apologise for it."
After the December 2013 election produced a hung assembly, the Congress, with eight legislators, extended support to the 28-member AAP to form a minority government.
Two Independents also backed the AAP, which had fought its first election after its birth the previous year.
But the AAP government - later short of one party member - was shortlived. Kejriwal resigned after the Congress, BJP and others refused to let the Jan Lokpal bill pass in the house.
Since then, Delhi has been under President's rule but the assembly was not dissolved. The AAP had earlier petitioned the judiciary to demand fresh elections in Delhi.
The situation changed after the Bharatiya Janata Party won all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi this month.
After being pushed to a distant third in the Lok Sabha battle, a section of Congress legislators seemed willing to again back an AAP government.
Initially, the AAP leaders refused the offer. But there was pressure from a section of its own legislators to explore the possibility of government formation.
Kejriwal said Wednesday that people in Delhi wanted him to again form a government.
"Since the Lok Sabha election ended, I have been going around Delhi and people have said that we made a mistake (by resigning) and that we should not repeat the mistake."
"They (public) asked us to form a government... Otherwise, they said, they will not forgive us," he added.
"We will apologise to the people and (seek) a majority in the house so that we can form a government for the next five years. We will form a corruption free government."
The Congress said it will not prop up an AAP government "at any cost".
Its general secretary Shakeel Ahmed told IANS: "The AAP is exposed now. Kejriwal is a hypocrite of the highest degree."
BJP leader Harsh Vardhan, a legislator now elected to the Lok Sabha, said his party wanted fresh polls.
"We are ready for elections in Delhi and have been saying this since December," Harsh Vardhan told IANS. "A fresh election is the only option."