New Delhi, May 27: Arvind Kejriwal today relented and furnished a bail bond after Delhi High Court advised him “not to make it a prestige issue”.
The former chief minister walked out of Tihar jail around 7pm, after a six-day judicial custody that a lower court had ordered following his refusal to provide such bonds in the defamation case filed by Nitin Gadkari. Kejriwal had included the BJP leader in a list of the corrupt.
“Why are you taking it as a prestige issue? Don’t make it a question of prestige. File your personal bond and seek release today,” a high court division bench of Justices Kailash Gambhir and Sunita Gupta told Kejriwal’s counsel while hearing his plea against the lower court order.
Kejriwal’s lawyers accepted the advice. The bench then agreed to hear on May 31 his appeal against the lower court’s order not to release him unless he furnished a bond. It added that the bond he furnished today would be subject to final outcome on the larger legal issues in the petition.
Kejriwal’s lawyers had moved a habeas corpus petition in the high court for his immediate release, arguing that he had been illegally sent to judicial custody on a “completely wrong premise of law” by the lower court on May 21 and 23. He had been remanded till June 6.
Kejriwal’s lawyers met him in jail after the high court nudge and later told Gomati Manocha, the magistrate who had remanded him, that he was ready to file the bond.
“Arvind Kejriwal has written in his own handwriting that he is filing the personal bond in compliance with the high court orderů the bond is accepted. Let the accused be released forthwith,” the magistrate ordered.
Kejriwal’s change of mind on the bond comes amid lukewarm response to AAP protests against his custody and the exit of Shazia Ilmi, one of the party’s founder-members who alleged cronyism and sensationalism, over the weekend.
AAP leaders, however, sought to allay the perception that Kejriwal had buckled and argued that he was fighting for the rights of the common man by questioning whether bail bonds should be mandatory in such cases.
“The AAP would like to make it clear that by preferring jail over bail, Kejriwal has raised an important issue concerning the common manů whether mere filing of a complaint against an individual in a court should lead to his harassment,” the AAP said in a statement.
Rivals didn’t agree. “Kejriwal is resorting to low-level politics. His going to jail was pure drama to gain political mileage. It wasn’t a moral issue. Agreeing to furnish bail bond proved he was resorting to theatrics,” Delhi Congress leader Mukesh Sharma said.
The AAP chief was first sent to jail on May 21 for two days after he said would not file a bail bond since he had done no wrong by raising his voice against corruption. He stuck to his stand two days later and was packed off to prison again.
AAP leaders had hoped that his jail stint would help revive the falling stock of the party after the poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections. Kejriwal lost to Narendra Modi in Varanasi, as did Ilmi and several others in other seats.
Kejriwal had released an “open letter” from jail on Saturday saying he was languishing in jail while “corrupt leaders” were preparing to become ministers. This prompted a PIL in the high court accusing him of “inciting” people to break the law.