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CBI vs Chidambaram Courtroom Drama: Terse Arguments, Tense Moments in Packed Room No. 502

P Chidambaram heard all the arguments with a calm look — towards the end of the hearing, he intervened to clarify that he had been asked about the foreign accounts of himself and his son, and that he had answered both the questions.

Arunima | CNN-News18Arunima24

Updated:August 22, 2019, 11:19 PM IST
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CBI vs Chidambaram Courtroom Drama: Terse Arguments, Tense Moments in Packed Room No. 502
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New Delhi: From 2 pm on Thursday, the Rouse Avenue Road, where the special court complex of the Central Bureau of Investigation is located, started buzzing with activity.

Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha arrived one after the other to defend their party colleague and former finance minister P Chidambaram, who was arrested last night in a case of corruption in the INX Media scam.

Chidambaram was set to be produced in the special court on Thursday, after being kept overnight in the CBI headquarters here.

The Congress leader’s legal team had come in early on Thursday, believing that the CBI would produce him in court around 2:15 pm. But they had to wait for an hour.

At 3:15 pm, a smiling Chidambaram walked into room number 502 in the court of Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar. The mid-sized room was already overflowing with lawyers, politicians, journalists, and some curious onlookers. The chaos was such that the CBI public prosecutor could not convince the Delhi Police personnel posted outside the room to let him in until fellow lawyers identified him as the prosecutor whose presence was needed inside.

Meanwhile, Chidambaram greeted Judge Kuhar with folded hands and was offered a seat. But he said he would prefer to stand.

Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta led the arguments for the CBI. He said that Chidambaram was being evasive in his replies and his custody was needed to confront him with evidence provided by accused-turned-approver Indrani Mukherjee. Mehta sought Chidambaram’s custody for five days. While he argued, Karti Chidambaram, who was seated at the front end of the courtroom, looked on. His mother, Nalini, was sitting in the last row, next to the door. Congress leaders Mukul Wasnik and Harish Rawat also joined her after having pushed their way in.

Sibal in the interim had begun demolishing the CBI arguments. The crux of his argument was that the interrogation was part of political vendetta.

"This is not to gather evidence but 'something else’," said Sibal, alleging that the CBI had no intention of finding out anything while Chidambaram was in custody.

“When you came to arrest me (Chidambaram) yesterday, I told you that I haven't slept for 24 hours, can you do this tomorrow?” Sibal said on behalf of his counsel. “You said no; we want to interrogate you. Last night, no interrogation, I was told at 8:30 this morning it will begin, 8 am I got ready and waited, at 8:30 I reminded you, 9:30 I again sent a reminder, only at 12:30 the questioning began. That, too, you asked me only 12 questions, six of which I have already answered.”

Chidambaram heard all this with a calm look — towards the end of the arguments, he intervened to clarify that he had been asked about the foreign accounts of himself and his son, and that he had answered both the questions.

As the judge reserved the order for 30 minutes, the courtroom emptied a bit and the Chidambarams got a chance to chit-chat. The former home minister was also seen sharing light-hearted banter with his Congress colleagues and lawyers — Singhvi and Sibal.

As the half-an-hour wait stretched to over an hour, the courtroom emptied out and refilled many times. At 6.30 pm, the judge walked in to announce that the accused would be sent to CBI custody till August 26 even as his wife prayed. After the hearing, P Chidambaram walked out of the courtroom, flashing a thumbs-up and a smile.

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| Edited by: Moonmoon Ghosh
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