INX Media case: P Chidambaram in CBI custody for 4 more days

Published: August 27, 2019 3:08:22 AM

The ED, while arguing its case before the Supreme Court on August 23 and in an affidavit filed Monday, accused Chidambaram and “his co-conspirators” of floating a “web of shell companies” in India and abroad to launder money.

Opposing this, Solicitor General Mehta said “there is prima facie evidence to confront the accused and on the allegations of payment made to accused, Letters of Rogatory have been sent to five countries”.

By PRITAM PAL SINGH, ANAND MOHAN J & ANANTHAKRISHNAN G

A Delhi court on Monday extended till August 30 the CBI remand of Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram, allowing the agency to question him in custody for another four days in the INX Media case.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, told special CBI judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar that the agency needed to confront Chidambaram with another co-accused — the identity of the co-accused was not made public — and documents and emails related to the case.

Chidambaram was produced before the special court amid tight security at the end of his four-day remand. The CBI sought his custody for another five days but judge Kuhar granted four days, saying “further police custody remand of the accused P Chidambaram is justified and accordingly he is remanded to further police custody till August 30, 2019”.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court refused to entertain Chidambaram’s plea challenging the Delhi High Court order which had dismissed his anticipatory bail plea in the corruption case lodged by the CBI.

Observing that his plea had become infructuous, the bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna said he could apply for regular bail in the court concerned which would decide the matter without being influenced in any manner by the observations of any other court.
Chidambaram’s plea against the order remanding him to CBI custody was not listed for hearing Monday with the Supreme Court saying the Registry was yet to get instructions from the Chief Justice of India.

The bench also extended till Tuesday the interim protection from arrest granted to him in the money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate. It said it will continue to hear arguments on his petition seeking pre-arrest bail in the matter.

The special court, while extending the CBI remand period, allowed Chidambaram to meet his family members and counsel for half-an-hour daily, noting that the reason for grant of custodial interrogation had already been stated in its August 22 order when it said the allegations were “serious in nature” and a “detailed and in-depth investigation” was required.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Dayan Krishnan and advocate P K Dubey, appearing for Chidambaram, opposed the remand extension request, saying the CBI at the last hearing had mentioned about some payment, but in over 26 hours of interrogation it had “not put to me (Chidambaram) any question related to the allegation of payment to the tune of five million US dollar and 4,50,000 US dollar”.
Sibal said the amount was mentioned only to sensationalise the case and had “only asked me (Chidambaram), did co-accused Peter Mukerjea give you this money, to which the answer is ‘no’.” He said the CBI had no evidence and its investigation was “clouded”.

Opposing this, Solicitor General Mehta said “there is prima facie evidence to confront the accused and on the allegations of payment made to accused, Letters of Rogatory have been sent to five countries”.

Probing alleged charges of corruption in the case, the CBI had arrested Chidambaram on August 21 night amid high drama — its personnel scaled the boundary wall of his New Delhi home to reach him — after he addressed the press at the Congress headquarters and headed home.

The INX media case pertains to alleged financial irregularities in clearances granted when Chidambaram was the Union Finance Minister. His son Karti Chidambaram is also an accused in the case and was arrested by the CBI on February 28 last year. Later, he was granted bail by Delhi High Court.

In the Supreme Court, Sibal also raised “strong objections” to the ED request to the bench to look at certain documents related to its investigations that it had submitted to the court in a sealed cover. He said it was intended “only to prejudice you (court)”.

Initially, the bench said it would look into the papers during lunchtime. But Sibal objected and questioned the procedure under which the agency could submit documents to the court in sealed cover. “I don’t know what’s in them. It has not been put to me during examination. This is a violation of Article 21 rights”. The court has in the past, he said, ruled that investigation and fair trial are part of Article 21.
On the agency’s contention that it was submitting its case diary to the court, Sibal said the ED does not maintain a case diary. Solicitor General Mehta said what he meant was the case file which contain the investigation records.

The ED, while arguing its case before the Supreme Court on August 23 and in an affidavit filed Monday, accused Chidambaram and “his co-conspirators” of floating a “web of shell companies” in India and abroad to launder money.

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