The bench is hearing the appeal filed by Chidambaram challenging the Delhi High Court September 30 verdict denying him bail in the INX Media corruption case.
The CBI told the Supreme Court Wednesday there is no “exceptional circumstance” in former finance minister P Chidambaram’s plea seeking bail in the INX Media corruption case for the court to hear it during the lunch break. “Is this a matter which cannot wait for even a day?”, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, asked a bench, headed by Justice R Banumathi, which initially said that it would hear his arguments in the case during the recess at 1.30 PM on Thursday. Mehta, who was arguing in a separate land acquisition matter before a 5-judge Constitution bench, rushed to the court hearing Chidambaram’s plea and tendered an apology for seeking a day’s accommodation for arguing the case on behalf of the CBI.
At the outset, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K M Natraj, who was also appearing for CBI, urged the bench that the matter should be heard on Friday as Mehta was on his legs before the Constitution bench. The bench, also comprising justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, however told Natraj to advance arguments and take it through the counter affidavit filed by the CBI and said that it would hear Mehta’s submission on Thursday.
While the ASG was reading out the relevant portion of the CBI’s counter affidavit filed in the matter, Mehta appeared in the court. “I have taken five minutes time from the Constitution bench to come to this court to tender an apology. I am on my legs before the constitution bench. No prejudice would be caused to the other side as he (Chidambaram) has been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate today,” Mehta told the bench. “It is really embarrassing. Have it day after tomorrow. My role would be over before the Constitution bench by tomorrow.
I am requesting that this matter be heard at 2 PM on Friday,” he said. To this, the bench told Mehta, “We will assemble at 1.30 PM tomorrow. You come and argue tomorrow.” Mehta said that since Chidambaram has been arrested by the ED, no prejudice would be caused to him if the case would be heard on Friday. “There is no exceptional circumstance in this case that this court would hear it during recess,” Mehta said. The bench told Mehta that the ASG was taking it through the counter affidavit filed by CBI and not referring to the merits of the case. It later posted the matter for further hearing on Friday when Mehta would advance his arguments. The bench is hearing the appeal filed by Chidambaram challenging the Delhi High Court September 30 verdict denying him bail in the INX Media corruption case. Chidambaram’s counsel Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi had Tuesday sought the bail and argued in the top court that CBI wants to keep him in jail to “humiliate him”. Sibal and Singhvi had argued that there were no allegations against Chidambaram or his family members of having ever tried to approach or influence any witness in the case.
Chidambaram, 74, was arrested by the CBI on August 21 and is lodged in Tihar jail under judicial custody in the corruption case. He has spent 8 weeks in CBI and judicial custody in the INX Media corruption case. Chidambaram was the Union minister for finance as also home during the UPA-I and UPA-II governments from 2004 to 2014.
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007, during Chidambaram’s tenure as the finance minister. Thereafter, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) lodged a money-laundering case in this regard in 2017.