Supreme Court to hear P Chidambaram’s plea on Friday

PTI New Delhi | Updated on August 21, 2019 Published on August 21, 2019

P Chidambaram (file photo).

The Delhi High Court dismissed Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea on Tuesday

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who is facing a threat of arrest, failed to get protection from the Supreme Court which decided to hear on Friday his petition seeking stay of the Delhi High Court order, that had dismissed his anticipatory bail plea.

Registrar (Judicial) informed Chidambaram’s lawyers that Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has listed the matter for hearing on Friday.

Soon after getting the message from Registrar (Judicial), a team of lawyers led by senior advocate Kapil Sibal had short deliberation in the consultation room after which they left the apex court.

Chidambaram, who held the posts of Union Minister of Home Affairs and Finance in the UPA government from 2004-2014, had sought a stay on the Delhi High Court’s Tuesday judgement dismissing his anticipatory bail plea, paving the way for his arrest in cases related to the INX Media scam.

The cases have been lodged by the CBI and the ED.

Also read: ED widens probe against P Chidambaram; more FIPB approvals, shell firms under lens

A big commotion was seen in the top court from 10:30 AM to 5 PM as three attempts were made by his lawyers seeking urgent hearing on Wednesday itself, but the CJI decided that the case will be heard on Friday.

Chidambaram, who is yet to be traced by the probe agencies and was last seen in public on Tuesday 5 PM in the apex court’s corridors, has to evade arrest for two more days before his plea is heard. As per the apex court rules, the composition of the bench which will hear his case will be known on Thursday evening.

Urgent hearing

Chidambaram’s petition was first mentioned by Sibal in the morning before a bench, comprising Justices N V Ramana, M Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi, which sent it for being placed before the Chief Justice for his consideration to accord it urgent hearing.

When the team of lawyers representing Chidambaram did not receive any information on urgent listing, Sibal once again mentioned it before the same bench after it assembled post lunch.

Sibal, flanked by other senior advocates Salman Khurshid, Vivek Tankha and Indira Jaising, told the bench that the investigating agencies have issued a look out notice against Chidambaram as if he is going to “run away”.

Also read: CBI issues Look Out Circular against P Chidambaram

The top court said the defects in the petition had been removed “just now” and it “cannot be listed for hearing today itself”. “Without listing of the petition, we cannot hear the matter,” said the bench.

“Sorry Mr Sibal. We cannot hear the matter,” the bench said, when he repeatedly asked for hearing the matter on Wednesday itself.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the plea of Chidambaram for hearing the matter on oral mentioning, saying that the papers are not with him.

Just as the bench assembled in the post lunch session, Sibal said he was once again mentioning the matter for listing as he had not heard anything from the Registry about its listing. The bench told him that there were some defects in the petition and the Registry had informed about it.

When Sibal said the defects have been cured, the bench called Registrar (judicial) Surya Pratap Singh and enquired about the defects. The Registrar said the defects have been cured “just now”, and the petition will be placed before the CJI for allocating it before an appropriate bench.

At this, Sibal said that the matter cannot be listed today as the CJI was sitting in the Constitution bench and will not rise before 4 PM.

While the senior advocate was repeatedly insisting the matter be heard, the bench told him, “We have already directed the matter to be placed before CJI”. “Generally, the matters for listing are placed before the CJI in the evening but in the morning we immediately refer it to CJI,” the bench said. “It is not our job, but the Registry has to take the step,” the bench further said.

Also read: Enforcement Directorate issues look-out notice against P Chidambaram

When Sibal reminded the bench that in the past on the basis of oral mentioning protection from arrest has been granted to people, the bench said, “We directed the Registry and it found that there were defects in the petition.”

“Your lordships have protected people before. Client has cooperated, yet there is a lookout notice against him. We just seek a listing of the matter,” Sibal said.

At the end of the hearing, Sibal said that Chidambaram was ready to give an undertaking that he will not run away but the bench did not consider the submission and concluded the brief hearing.

The senior advocate then entered into the courtroom of the Chief Justice which gave speculation that he will make an extraordinary mention before the Constitution bench which was hearing the Ayodhya land dispute case.

However, no such step was taken and after CJI-led bench rose for the day, scribes were told by Sibal that the apex court rule does not permit mentioning before a Constitution bench and the team of lawyers was forced to wait for a communication from the Registrar on the basis of the order passed by a bench headed by Justice Ramana.

‘Monumental magnitude’

In the morning, Mehta, appearing for the CBI and the ED, had told the bench that it was a case of money laundering of “monumental magnitude”.

Sibal said the high court had also refused to grant any protection from arrest to Chidambaram to enable him to approach the apex court. He also told the court that at 2 AM on Wednesday the probe agencies pasted a notice on Chidambaram’s house that he has to appear before them within two hours.

Chidambaram suffered a major setback Tuesday as the High Court dismissed his anticipatory bail in the INX Media scam describing him as the “kingpin”, and paved the way for the investigating agencies, CBI and ED, to arrest him.

Published on August 21, 2019
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