Judge allows agency to quiz Chidambaram in Tihar jail today
The trial court on Tuesday permitted the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate and arrest, if necessary, former Finance Minister Chidambaram in the INX Media bribery case. Armed with the order, the ED is expected to take Chidambaram in its custody on Wednesday.
After this development, even if Chidambaram’s bail petition in the Supreme Court in the CBI case is favourably disposed, he might end up spending Diwali behind bars.
Trial court judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar on Tuesday evening passed the order allowing the ED to interrogate Chidambaram in Tihar jail on Wednesday and arrest him if necessary. The court said three ED officials can interrogate Chidambaram on Wednesday after 8.30 am and asked the jail superintendent to make arrangements in this regard.
The former Finance Minister’s judicial custody in the INX Media corruption case, which was filed by the CBI, ends on October 17. Since his arrest on August 21, he has till Tuesday spent 54 days in custody — both of the CBI as well as judicial — in nine spells.
After the court passed the order, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Special Public Prosecutor Amit Mahajan, appearing for the ED, sought permission to question Chidambaram in some space available on Rouse Avenue court premises. The court, however, said, “It’s not in the dignity of this person that you interrogate and arrest him here in public view.” The court also rejected Chidamabram’s petition against the production warrant.
Chidambaram on Tuesday sought bail from the Supreme Court in the INX Media corruption case saying the CBI wants to keep him in custody to humiliate him. The court will hear on Wednesday the arguments of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI. Citing his attempts to meet to two crucial witnesses, the agency reiterated that Chidambaram should not be given bail. Justice R Banumathi headed Bench will resume hearing on this petition on Wednesday morning and the ED is expected to make arrest early in the morning.
After the trial court’s permission to the ED, Chidambaram’s bail petition in the apex court has literally became useless. The ED will get maximum 15 days custody of Chidamabaram following which he may be remanded in judicial custody till he gets bail in the ED’s case.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Chidambaram, told a 3-judge bench headed by Justice R Banumathi that there were no allegations against their party colleague or his family members of having ever tried to approach or influence any witness in the case.
Sibal told the Bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, that Chidambaram is in custody for last 55 days and the Delhi High Court had rejected his bail plea in a “strange way”.
Chidambaram, 74, was arrested by the CBI on August 21 and is lodged in Tihar jail under judicial custody in the corruption case.
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 `305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as the Finance Minister.
Thereafter, the ED lodged a money-laundering case in this regard in 2017.
Chidambaram moved the top court challenging the Delhi High Court’s September 30 verdict denying him bail in the INX Media case lodged by the CBI.
Sibal told the Bench on Tuesday that earlier the ED had argued before the apex court that they want custodial interrogation of Chidambaram, but later they opposed his application filed in the trial court to surrender in the money laundering case.
“Bail should be granted to him (Chidambaram). They (CBI) want to keep me in jail to humiliate him,” Sibal argued before the apex court.
Wednesday, 16 October 2019 | PNS | New Delhi