Allegations against Chidambaram Serious, Says Special Court; Sends Him to CBI Custody till Monday
The court said Chidambaram will remain in CBI custody till August 26, during which period the agency will get him medically examined regularly as per rules. The court also allowed his family members and lawyers to meet him for 30 minutes every day.
Congress leader P Chidambaram exits the CBI special court after the hearing on Thursday. (PTI)
New Delhi: A special court here on Thursday sent Congress leader P Chidambaram to custody of the the Central Bureau of Investigation till August 26, saying his custodial interrogation was justified in the INX Media corruption case.
The court said Chidambaram will remain in CBI custody till August 26, during which period the agency will get him medically examined regularly as per the rules. The court also allowed his family members and lawyers to meet him for 30 minutes every day.
"Considering the facts and circumstances, I am of the view that police custody is justified," Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said.
The court also allowed a request that Chidambaram be allowed to make a brief submission during the hearing, despite strong objection from the CBI.
After the order was pronounced on Thursday evening, the 73-year-old Chidambaram was immediately taken out of the court room by the CBI team. The CBI had earlier sought his custody for five days.
The court heard the arguments of the central probe agency and Chidambaram's counsel for over 90 minutes during which time the CBI said there was a need to unearth a larger conspiracy and to go to the root of the case. Chidamabaram's counsel opposed the plea, saying that all the other accused, including his son Karti, have already been granted bail in the case.
Chidambaram, who was Union home minister as also finance minister during the UPA rule from 2004 to 2014, was arrested on Wednesday night after he failed to get protection from the Supreme Court, which did not list for an urgent hearing his appeal against the Delhi High Court verdict dismissing his anticipatory bail plea on Tuesday.
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. Afterwards, the ED also lodged a money laundering case last year.
Officials on Thursday said that the CBI has also expanded the probe against Chidambaram, bringing under its ambit foreign investment clearances given to companies other than INX media during his tenure.
Chidambaram was produced in the special court amidst tight security and senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for him, argued that the first arrest in the case was of Bhaskar Raman, chartered accountant of Karti, who is presently out on bail. Besides that, Peter and Indrani Mukherjea, also accused in the case, are out on default bail as they are in jail in connection with another matter, Sibal said.
Sibal said the FIPB approval was given by senior officials, who were not arrested. He contended that the grant of bail was a rule and the issue before the court was of personal liberty.
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said CBI has to interrogate Chidambaram in custody as he was non-cooperative and evasive in replies. He told the court that the agency was not extorting confession from Chidambaram but it had the right to reach the root of the case.
"It is a serious case involving intelligent people and we will fail in our duty if we don't get to the root of the case," the solicitor general said, adding that even Karti underwent custodial interrogation in the case.
Mehta said Chidambaram has tremendous potential of not cooperating in probe since he is highly intelligent and certain facts about the case cannot be narrated in the open court.
Besides Sibal, senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi, also appeared for Chidambaram, opposed CBI's plea saying that the former Union Minister was not a flight risk.
Singhvi said the entire CBI case was based on the statement of Indrani Mukherjea, who has turned approver in the case. He said Chidambaram cannot answer what CBI wants to hear and added that the agency cannot seek remand on the ground of evasive replies.
He also argued that there was no allegation of tampering of evidence by CBI.
Singhvi further contended that police remand can only be granted in special circumstances and this was a case where there was no new development. He said the agency was asking Chidambaram only old questions since his arrest on Wednesday night.
Mehta said during his initial arguments that Chidambaram entered into a criminal conspiracy with others in the scam. Chidambaram was arrested after issuance of non bailable warrant against him, he said, adding that it is a serious and monumental case of money laundering.
"He is not cooperating in the investigation," Mehta said, adding that he has been evasive in replies and grave offence was committed. He also said Chidambaram's custodial interrogation was necessary to unearth the "quid pro quo and larger conspiracy" and he is required to be confronted with documents.
(With inputs from agencies)
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