Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Chidambaram, requested the bench to also consider extending his CBI custody till then.
By Ananthakrishnan G
The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will rule September 5 on former Union Minister P Chidambaram’s plea for interim protection from arrest in an alleged money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate even as the agency opposed his contention that it could not show the court any material it had not confronted him with.
The bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna, where the hearing in the ED case commenced August 23 and ended Thursday, also fixed September 2 to take up Chidambaram’s plea challenging his remand in CBI custody in the INX Media case.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Chidambaram, requested the bench to also consider extending his CBI custody till then. Intervening, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, said the lawyers could make the request before the CBI court when he is produced there at the end of his CBI remand Friday.
The bench also asked Mehta to submit documents related to the investigation and said it will take a call on whether or not to peruse the contents of the sealed cover. Mehta had earlier asked the judges to have a look at the documents and this was objected to by Chidambaram’s lawyers. Contesting this, Mehta said “this stand is absurd and devastating consequences will follow if this argument is going to be adopted”.
“The contention that unless the accused is confronted with material in possession of investigating agency, it can never be shown even to the court is completely fallacious and defeats the very intent, object and express language of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and any other penal statutes,” he said.
The argument was “preposterous” and “will defeat the purpose of investigation in serious offences”. If all evidence is exposed, the accused, he said, “can immediately tamper with the evidence and try to erase the money trail and create a camouflage depending upon what is revealed by the investigating agency while confronting him with that.”
Mehta said “investigation is a science… In an investigation, we may have six things but only divulge three things first… That’s the art of investigation,” he said. In PMLA cases, there may be need to confront the accused not only with documents, but even with other persons, and that’s entirely for the investigating agency to decide, he said.
Chidambaram, in a rejoinder affidavit, had raised the apprehension that “coercive methods” may be used to extract a confession from him. On this, Mehta cited judgments which said if the plea was allowed, the accused would resort to such arguments in every case.
Courts, he said, had to presume that officers will act responsibly, and “that’s why accused are produced before courts regularly, to ensure that they are not ill-treated. There are checks and balances in every statute”. Mehta also opposed the contention that the charges against Chidambaram were not an offence in 2007-08 when they were allegedly committed. Money from the crime, he said, continued to be laundered even now.