Unacceptable, says India on US remarks on Kejriwal’s arrest, Cong’s ‘funds freeze’

The US state department on Wednesday doubled down on its call for fair legal processes in the context of Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest

The US state department on Wednesday doubled down on its call for fair legal processes in the context of Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest

Delhi chief minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal comes out of the Rouse Avenue Court after he was produced by the Enforcement Directorate in the excise policy-linked money laundering case in New Delhi (PTI)

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday described as “unacceptable” the US administration’s call for fair and timely legal processes to deal with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest and the freezing of the Congress party’s bank accounts, and said other states should respect the country’s sovereignty.

The US state department on Wednesday doubled down on its call for fair legal processes in the context of Kejriwal’s arrest, with a spokesperson making remarks on the matter for the second time this week. The state department also sought fair processes to deal with the opposition Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities had frozen its bank accounts ahead of the general election.

The external affairs ministry summoned a senior American diplomat on Wednesday to protest the US state department’s call for fair legal processes for Kejriwal, and the terse exchanges were in marked contrast to the robust bilateral relationship, which has seen significant advances in areas such as defence and critical technologies in recent months.

Asked about the US state department’s fresh comments on Kejriwal’s arrest and the Congress party’s allegations, external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal told a regular media briefing that the remarks are unwarranted. “Any such external imputation on our electoral and legal processes is completely unacceptable,” he said.

India had already lodged its “strong objection and protest” with a senior US embassy official about the comments by the US state department, Jaiswal said. “In India, legal processes are driven only by the rule of law. Anyone who has similar ethos, especially fellow democracies, should have no difficulty in appreciating this fact,” he said.

Jaiswal added: “India is proud of its independent and robust democratic institutions. We are committed to protect them from any form of undue external influences.”

Mutual respect and understanding are the foundation of international ties and “states are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others”, he said.

When US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked about India summoning the senior US diplomat over the American position on the arrest of Kejriwal as well as the freezing of the Congress party’s bank accounts, he replied that the US continues to follow these matters closely.

“We are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections, and we encourage fair, transparent, and timely legal processes for each of these issues,” Miller said.

Miller declined to go into details about the acting US deputy chief of mission being summoned to the external affairs ministry, saying he wouldn’t talk about any private diplomatic conversations. “But of course, what we have said publicly is…that we encourage fair, transparent, timely legal processes. We don’t think anyone should object to that, and we’ll make the same thing clear privately,” he added.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Kejriwal last week for his alleged role in Delhi’s controversial excise policy for 2021-22 that was later scrapped. His Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has rejected the corruption charges.

Congress leaders have protested about tax authorities attaching ₹65 crore from five bank accounts of the party and its youth and students’ wings against the lien of ₹115 crore placed by the tax department on the party’s accounts over a delay in filing tax returns for 2018-19.

India had initially protested about the US state department’s position on Kejriwal less than a week after registering a similar protest with Germany. It also said the country’s legal processes are based on an independent judiciary committed to “objective and timely outcomes”, and casting aspersions on this is unwarranted.

On Saturday, the German deputy chief of mission, Georg Enzweiler, was summoned to the external affairs ministry to protest against the position taken by the German foreign ministry on Kejriwal’s arrest. Enzweiler was told that Germany’s stance amounted to interfering in India’s judicial process.

The German foreign ministry had said that Kejriwal, like anyone facing accusations, is entitled to a fair and impartial trial. It also said that standards related to the independence of the judiciary and basic democratic principles should be applied in his case.

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