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Interim Relief for Karti Chidambaram, Delhi HC Says ED Can’t Arrest Him Till March 20

The HC issued notice to the ED and the Union government on Karti’s plea. The CBI’s plea for extension of his custody is listed before Patiala House later in the day.

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Updated:March 9, 2018, 2:16 PM IST
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Interim Relief for Karti Chidambaram, Delhi HC Says ED Can’t Arrest Him Till March 20
Karti Chidambaram being produced by CBI in the INX Media case, at Patiala House Court in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Image: PTI)
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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday granted interim relief to Karti Chidambaram from arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in the INX Media.

The court granted interim protection from arrest to Karti Chidambaram, son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, till March 20 in the INX Media money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Justice S Ravindra Bhat also made it clear that in case the special court grants Karti bail in the CBI case which has registered a corruption case against him, the ED will not arrest him till the next hearing before it. The CBI’s plea for extension of his custody is listed before Patiala House later in the day.

The court also issued a notice and sought a response of the Centre and the ED on Karti's plea challenging the issuance of summons and proceedings initiated against him in the money laundering case.

The court also asked Karti to cooperate with the investigation and not fly out of the country.

On Thursday, there were heated arguments in the Supreme Court with the Enforcement Directorate strongly opposing the green signal given to Karti to withdraw his plea against the probe agency's summons and to approach the Delhi High Court for seeking relief.

The ED said allowing Karti, son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, to approach the high court in the money laundering case arising out of the INX Media graft case, would set a "bad precedent" for others.

During a nearly two-hour hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED and Karti's senior counsel Kapil Sibal, traded a volley of charges.

However, the bench, also comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, acceded to Karti's plea and asked the acting chief justice of the high court to allocate it before an appropriate bench for hearing.

Hours after the apex court order, Karti's lawyers -- Dayan Krishnan and Mohit Mathur -- approached the high court where Justice S Ravindra Bhat dealt with the petition in his chamber and posted the matter for hearing on Friday.

Karti, who is in the custody of the CBI, will be produced before a trial court on Friday on expiry of his three-day custodial interrogation.

He has been in CBI custody since his arrest on February 28. The agency can seek his police custody for six more days under the law in addition to nine days already granted.

Special Judge Sunil Rana will also hear the bail plea of Karti and the CBI's application to conduct a narco analysis test on him.

The agency, during previous hearings, alleged that he was not cooperating in the probe and was evasive in responding even to routine questions by parroting that the case against him was politically motivated to target his father during whose tenure as the Union finance minister, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance was granted to the INX Media group.

The ED opposed Sibal's contention that Karti should be allowed to withdraw the petition and approach the high court.

Sibal also sought one week's interim protection from arrest by the ED in the case.However, Mehta opposed Sibal's submission, saying by "allowing the petitioner to withdraw and approach the high court by the Supreme Court will send a wrong signal to all those who are facing money laundering cases. There will be 50 petitions next day. What message we will be sending to others".

He said it will set a bad precedent for others who would first approach the apex court by way of petitions seeking interim protection and then seek permission to move high court.

The bench asked Mehta "What if Karti is arrested by the ED as soon as he is released by the CBI from its custody?"

"He himself says he is not a 'common criminal'. But I ask myself what do common criminals do when released in one case and fear arrest in the other case. They apply for anticipatory bail. It is his constitutional right," Mehta said, adding that the court may quash the proceedings if it so wished, but it should not allow him to withdraw the petition.

The bench said it will pass orders directing the high court to entertain the petition of Karti and pass the interim order once a proper application was moved.

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| Edited by: Mayur Borah
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