The Delhi High Court today granted former Union minister P Chidambaram interim protection from arrest till August 1 in the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) money laundering case related to INX Media. Justice K Pathak while granting interim relief directed Chidambaram to cooperate with the ED’s investigation as and when required and not to leave the country without court’s prior permission. The court sought the response of the ED on the senior Congress leader’s plea in which he said he was apprehending arrest.
The court asked ED not to take any coercive steps till August 1 when it would also hear Chidambaram’s both the pleas in INX Media cases lodged by the ED and the CBI, seeking anticipatory bail. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, opposed Chidambaram’s plea on the point of maintainability contending that the politician was forum shopping which could not be allowed.
Mehta, who appeared along with advocate Amit Mahajan, said while in the Aircel-Maxis case, which had allegation of a similar modus operandi, Chidambaram had approached the trial court seeking anticipatory bail and he moved the high court for the relief in the INX Media case. Senior advocate Dyan Krishan and advocate P K Dubey, appearing for Chidambaram said they were apprehending arrest as in the main case, the CBI had said it required custodial interrogation of the Congress leader.
The counsel said this matter was from the same transaction on which the CBI had also registered the case. The only difference was that this petition related to the ED’s case while the other one, in which Chidambaram had already got protection from arrest, was of CBI. The petition, filed through advocate Arshdeep Singh, said though no summons had ever been served to the former Union finance minister by the ED in this case, he had an apprehension of arrest in view of the summons issued to him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which was investigating the scheduled offence.
The senior Congress leader’s role had come under the scanner of the investigating agencies in the Rs 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case involving Rs 305 crore. It was during his tenure as the finance minister in the UPA-1 government that clearances from the FIPB were given to the two ventures, in which alleged irregularities were found.
In the INX Media case, the CBI had registered an FIR on May 15 last year, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance to the media group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister. Thereafter, the ED had last year lodged the money laundering case in this regard.