Money Trail, Old Questions and Intelligent People: Courtroom Drama as CBI Went After Chidambaram
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the CBI, said Chidambaram was not cooperating with the probe agency and was evasive in his answers.
File photo of former finance minister P Chidambaram.
New Delhi: The CBI on Thursday produced Congress leader and former union minister P Chidambaram, arrested in the INX Media case, before a Delhi court and sought his custody for five days, saying there is a need to unearth a “larger conspiracy”.
He was produced before Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar and the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the CBI, said Chidambaram was not cooperating with the probe agency and was evasive in his answers.
Chidambaram's advocates opposed the CBI plea on the ground that all the other accused, including his son Karti, have already been granted bail in the case.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, 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.
He also questioned why bureaucrats in the FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) were not arrested if they had given wrong approval for foreign investment in INX Media. He contended that grant of bail was a rule and the issue before the court was of personal liberty.
Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for CBI, told the court that the agency was not extorting confession but it has 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," he said.
Besides Sibal, senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi also appeared for Chidambaram and opposed CBI's plea by saying that the former Union Minister was not a flight risk.
Singhvi said that 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.
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 pointed out that the arrest was made only 11-12 months after Indrani’s statement.
He said the agency was asking Chidambaram only old questions since his arrest on Wednesday night.
Mehta countered the arguments made on behalf of Chidambaram, saying that everybody was equal before the court. He said certain facts about the case cannot be narrated in an open court and also opposed the plea that Chidambaram be allowed to argue for himself, saying he has able lawyers representing him.
Mehta said that Chidambaram entered into a criminal conspiracy with others in the scam.
Chidambaram was arrested last night after issuance of non-bailable warrant against him.
Mehta said it is a serious and monumental case of money laundering. 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.
Opposing CBI's arguments, Sibal contended that what the agency has said should not be taken as "gospel truth". He said that Chidambaram was asked 12 questions and he had already answered six of them previously.
Investigators don't know what to ask and they don't have questions ready with them, Sibal told the court, adding that after his arrest on Wednesday night, Chidambaram was interrogated only on Thursday morning at 11 am.
During the arguments, Chidambaram said he has not slept for last 24 hours.
Sibal further argued that CBI could have written a letter to Chidambaram for producing the documents alleged to be in his possession and the agency cannot say he was evasive during the investigation. He also contended that what has been stated in the CBI case diary was not the truth and cannot be considered as evidence.
Mehta, during his arguments, placed the Delhi High Court's judgement dismissing Chidambaram's anticipatory bail plea and also referred to the observations made in it. He said charge sheet has not been filed in the case yet and the case is at pre-charge sheet stage, therefore, "we need material which Chidambaram is holding".
"Effective investigation is possible only in custodial interrogation," he argued. Mehta contended that serious, active and informed role of the accused is made out and money trail is made out and has to be probed.
Soon after entering the courtroom, 73-year-old Chidambaram was seen having discussion with his party leaders and senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Vivek Tankha. Chidambaram's family members, including his wife Nalini and son Karti, are also in the courtroom along with other senior advocates including Dayan Krishnan. Heavy security arrangement has been done outside the courtroom.
He was arrested late Wednesday night from his Jor Bagh residence. 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 ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2018.
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