Editorial: Government Cannot Be Run From Jail

Editorial: Government Cannot Be Run From Jail

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Thursday, March 28, 2024, 08:37 PM IST
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Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal | File Photo

Delhi is facing a constitutional crisis with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stating that he would rule the state from jail. Already, he is claimed to have issued two orders from there. How the papers were presented to him and how he passed on his decisions to his colleagues like Minister Atishi Singh are already subject to speculation. In Delhi, as elsewhere, what is followed is the Cabinet system of governance where the chief minister is just the first among equals. Since he cannot hold a Cabinet meeting inside the jail, it can be said that the Cabinet system of governance has totally collapsed. The prospect of a quick release is bleak as the Delhi High Court has granted the Enforcement Directorate time till April 3 to file its reply to Kejriwal’s plea that his arrest was legally, politically, and morally untenable.

Allowance has to be made for the fact that it is already one year since his number two in the Cabinet, Manish Sisodia, was arrested. As of now, there is no certainty about when the trial would start. As the ED claims that it has not been able to even access the files on Kejriwal’s devices because they are password-protected, it means that it is not in a hurry to take the case of bribery in the implementation of Delhi’s excise policy to its logical culmination. The point is, should the people of Delhi suffer for no fault of theirs? It’s not the first time that a chief minister has been arrested. It happened in Bihar and recently in Jharkhand. In such cases, the chief ministers concerned resigned. In one case, the vacancy was filled by the chief minister’s wife. At least they did not allow a constitutional vacuum to remain for long.

Resignation from chief ministership would not amount to acceptance of guilt, for under the law, every person is presumed to be innocent until he is proven guilty. That the person who was declared an approver in the case against Kejriwal and others had contributed a substantial sum to the BJP through the electoral bond scheme has cast a shadow on the case. Significantly enough, even countries like the US, which is India’s strategic partner, have been forced to remind the nation that everything is not fair in the investigation. However regrettable such interventions may be, the state cannot shirk its responsibility from treating Kejriwal fairly and equitably.

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