Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 23
Arrested in the INX Media case, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram will continue to be under CBI’s custody for the next three days as the Supreme Court on Friday deferred to August 26 hearing on his petition challenging a Delhi High court order in the case lodged by the CBI that paved the way for his arrest.
Hearing on his petition against the August 22 Delhi court order sending him to four-day police remand for custodial interrogation will also take place on Monday.
A Bench of Justice R Banumathi and Justice AS Bopanna, however, granted protection from arrest to the former Finance Minister in the money-laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate till August 26 when it will take up both the CBI and ED cases related to the scam.
“Having regard to the fact that the petitioner (Chidambaram) was also granted interim protection on July 25, 2018, and that the co-accused were also granted bail by the High Court, the petitioner is granted interim protection, insofar as the Enforcement Directorate case is concerned…till the next date of hearing,” the Bench said in its order.
The order came after hearing senior counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi for Chidambaram and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the CBI.
Chidambaram has challenged the August 20 order of the Delhi High Court rejecting his anticipatory bail pleas in ED and CBI cases. He has also filed a third petition challenging the August 22 order of a special court sending him to CBI’s custody till August 26.
Directing the ED to file its reply to Chidambaram’s petition, the Bench posted the matter for further hearing on Monday.
Mehta vehemently opposed grant of protection from arrest to Chidambaram in the money-laundering case, saying custodial interrogation of the former Finance Minister was necessary for unravelling the truth. He said Chidambaram cannot be arrested in the ED case till Monday as he was already in CBI custody and an accused can’t be arrested simultaneously by two agencies.
“The Directorate of Enforcement has collected innumerable documents/evidence to show that the money has been transferred from one company to another shell company…Chidambaram amassed 11 properties outside the country and has 17 bank accounts, not only in India but also abroad, and the money was transferred through a web of shell companies,” Mehta said.
Countering the allegations of “political vendetta” levelled by Congress, the Solicitor General said, “I am saying with a great sense of responsibility that this is a case of money laundering of a monumental magnitude”.
There were several rounds of heated exchange between Mehta on one side and senior advocates Sibal and Singhvi on the other, as both sides interrupted each other frequently.
After the court dictated the order, he even tried to hand over certain documents in a sealed cover to the court to satisfy its conscience before granting protection from arrest to Chidambaram, but the Bench turned it down. It asked Mehta to submit them on Monday as these were confidential papers which couldn’t be kept like this.
Sibal objected to it and pointed out that while rejecting the anticipatory bail plea, the high court had taken on record a note submitted by the ED which was not even argued.
“Word by word, comma for comma and full stop for full stop, even adjectives were copied as it is and para-wise noting was done…if the courts are going to copy-paste from the note given by prosecution agencies ,then how will the people protect themselves,” Sibal added.
Chidambaram was arrested on Wednesday night after the Supreme Court refused to give him an urgent hearing on his petition challenging the Delhi High Court order rejecting his anticipatory bail plea. A special CBI court on Thursday sent him CBI’s remand for custodial interrogation.
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during his tenure as Finance Minister. Later, the ED lodged a money-laundering case in this regard in 2018.
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