Indian court blocks jailed Delhi leader Arvind Kejriwal’s release after pausing bail order

The celebration surrounding the release of Delhi leader Arvind Kejriwal was cut short on Friday after a court paused its order and cancelled his bail just hours before he was to walk out of jail.

Mr Kejriwal, who is the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party) that governs capital Delhi, was arrested in March over his alleged involvement in a now-scrapped liquor policy case in which the exact charge against him is yet to be pronounced.

His arrest was a blow to the united Indian opposition which was challenging prime minister Narendra Modi and his majoritarian Hindu nationalist government. The AAP called it political vendetta ahead of the national elections. Mr Modi won a historic third consecutive term as India’s prime minister – but his victory was overshadowed by the failure of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win an expected outright majority.

On Thursday, the Delhi High Court paved the way for Mr Kejriwal’s release and granted him bail on a personal bond of Rs 100,000 (£946) on certain conditions. The Delhi chief minister was asked to not try to hamper the investigation in the corruption case or influence witnesses.

According to the High Court, the investigative agency Enforcement Directorate (ED) has not presented enough evidence to pin down Mr Kejriwal since his arrest on 21 March.

He was granted interim bail by India’s apex court in May to campaign for the federal elections before going back to jail again on 2 June.

Friday saw hectic parlays at the Delhi High Court once again as Mr Kejriwal’s lawyer continued his arguments for release from jail. The bail was paused after the probe agency challenged Mr Kejriwal’s bail.

Top leaders of Mr Kejriwal’s party and his wife Sunita Kejriwal were planning a grand welcome and expected to reach Tihar Jail in New Delhi where he is currently lodged.

The rejected bail is among a series of trial hearings where the Delhi leader was denied release from jail. Mr Kejriwal has denied the accusations.

While the federal agency accused Mr Kejriwal of being a key conspirator in the liquor bribery case, the opposition parties accused the government of misusing investigation agencies to harass and weaken its political opponents. They pointed to a series of raids, arrests and corruption investigations of key opposition figures in the months before the national election.

His party, AAP, is part of a broad alliance of opposition parties called INDIA, which was the main challenger to Modi during the election, which concluded earlier this month.