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INX Media case: Delhi court extends Chidambaram's CBI custody till August 30

PTI New Delhi | Updated on August 26, 2019 Published on August 26, 2019

P Chidambaram

CBI will continue to unearth the larger conspiracy, say prosecutors

Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram will be subjected to further custodial interrogation for four days by the CBI in the INX Media scam as a Delhi Court Monday sent him to the agency’s custody till August 30.

Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said that the CBI demand was “justified”. “Investigation is the prerogative of the investigating officer, which he has to conduct within the framework of law... I am of the view that further police custody remand of accused P Chidambaram is justified and accordingly, the accused is remanded to further police custody till August 30,” the judge said.

The court allowed Chidambaram’s family members and lawyers to meet him for half-an-hour daily during the CBI custody. He was produced in the court on expiry of his four-day CBI custody which was granted to the agency on August 22.

The CBI sought extension of Chidambaram’s custody by five days to confront him with certain e-mails and to unearth larger conspiracy.

'Confrontation with co-accused'

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General KN Nataraj, representing the CBI, said that there was sufficient ground for extension of Chidambaram’s custodial interrogation, as he was confronted with a co-accused during the interrogation from August 23-26.

"The confrontation with co-accused is not complete," the prosecutors said, and placed before the court a file containing e-mail exchanges between the accused. “We need five days of custody of Chidambaram as the confrontation with co-accused will continue to unearth larger conspiracy,” Mehta contended without divulging the name of the co-accused.

He said investigation of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is going on simultaneously and CBI has received information from it.

On being asked by the judge as to what CBI has done in last four days, the agency placed before the court relevant records.

The Solicitor General said it was necessary to confront Chidambaram with regard to relevant e-mails and it was absolutely relevant to go into the roots of the issue. “Certain documents and evidence have emerged which need to be confronted and probed,” he argued.

He said the ED has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in the money laundering case, and has shared evidence with the CBI regarding which further interrogation is required.

'Sensationalised'

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Chidambaram, opposed Mehta referring to documents filed by the ED. After speaking to Chidambaram for two minutes, Sibal said in the previous remand application, there was a mention of USD 5 million and not a single document was put to him during these four days.

He said the case cannot be sensationalised, and not a single question with regard to shell companies as also bank accounts has been asked to Chidambaram. He claimed that questions regarding the e-mails were already asked and Chidambaram has answered them.

“There has been 26 hours of questioning. Still nothing asked on all these issues,” he said, adding that he wants CBI to put correct facts before the court. “At least the process of investigation should be fair,” Sibal said, maintaining that the agency should show the documents relied by it in the court.

The Solicitor General said Letters Rogatory (LRs) have been sent to five countries and the investigators are trying to link the transactions of the accused related with the case. “There is prima facie evidence to link the accused with USD 5 million. We are awaiting response on LRs from the five countries,” Mehta told the court. LRs are a formal request from a court to a foreign court for certain judicial assistance.

Also read: CBI writes to five countries for info on payment trail

Sibal said an accused cannot be put in custody till the investigators get the evidence and asked the agency to show basis of allegation of USD 5 million against Chidambaram.

During the hearing, the court questioned the manner in which the case diary was placed before it. Sibal also objected to the format of the case diary. To this, the CBI said that the case diary was in loose pages as the format booklet was out of stock.

Chidambaram’s wife Nalini and son Karti are also present in the court. Chidambaram, 73, who was the Union Home Minister as also Finance Minister during the UPA rule from 2004 to 2014, was arrested by the CBI on August 21 from his Jor Bagh residence. He was earlier produced before the court on August 22 and was remanded to four-day CBI custody.

Setback in SC

Earlier, the Supreme Court refused to entertain Chidambaram's petition challenging the dismissal of his anticipatory bail in the case.

At the outset, a bench comprising justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna said since Chidambaram has already been arrested and is in the custody of the CBI, his appeal in the case has become infructuous. However, the bench said Chidambaram is at a liberty to seek remedy in accordance with the law.

In their arguments, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi said that the CBI ensured that Chidambaram’s plea become infructuous by arresting him when he was seeking protection from arrest. They said that immediately after the High Court had dismissed his anticipatory bail plea in both CBI and ED cases on August 20, the senior Congress leader had moved the apex court in the post-lunch session and his matter was listed for hearing on August 21.

While attempts were being made to get his petition listed for hearing on Wednesday, an order was passed that the matter will be heard on August 23. Chidambaram was arrested on late evening of August 21.

Also read: After a cat-and-mouse game, CBI arrests Chidambaram

Sibal narrated the sequence of events from August 20 to August 21, and said “the whole purpose of the CBI was to defeat the fundamental rights of my client (Chidambaram), and his liberty guaranteed under the Constitution. He should have been heard but the matter was listed for hearing on Friday and not even Thursday."

However, the bench said on that ground Chidambaram’s plea against the high court decision cannot be entertained. “So far as the CBI case is concerned, we are not inclined to hear it. We dismiss the special leave petition (of Chidambaram) in CBI case,” the bench said. It said the senior Congress leader can challenge the dismissal of his anticipatory bail in the CBI case on different grounds.

The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the 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 lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.

Published on August 26, 2019
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