P Chidambaram Arrested from Home in INX Media Scam Case, to Spend Night at CBI Headquarters
The former Union finance minister will be produced before a special CBI court on Thursday, where the agency will seek his remand.
CBI officials with Congress leader P Chidambaram after arresting him on Wednesday night. (PTI)
New Delhi: Senior Congress leader and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram was on Wednesday night arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) amid high drama at his posh Jor Bagh residence here when a few officers even scaled walls to gain entry.
The arrest took place hours after Chidambaram failed to get any immediate reprieve in the INX media case from the Supreme Court.
"Mr P Chidambaram has been arrested in connection with INX media case," a senior official of the agency confirmed.
A CBI spokesperson said Chidambaram has been arrested on the basis of a warrant issued by a competent court. After his arrest at his residence, the former minister was taken to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where a medical examination was done, sources said.
Chidambaram has been kept in No. 5 suite of the CBI Guest House on the ground floor of the agency headquarters, they added. He will be produced before a special CBI court on Thursday, where the agency will seek his remand.
Shortly after failing to get interim relief earlier on Wednesday, the 73-year-old leader made a dramatic appearance at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters here and addressed a news conference professing his innocence.
"I am aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law," Chidambaram said, rejecting allegations that he was evading investigating agencies. He added that he had been working with his lawyers throughout Tuesday, preparing his papers for his bail application.
Sleuths rushed to the party office, but by the time they reached, Chidambaram had already left for his residence 115-A in Jor Bagh, a 10-minute distance from the Congress office, in a luxury sedan accompanied with his lawyers and party colleagues — Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Kapil Sibal.
Afterwards, officials from the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate arrived at Chidambaram's house. Dramatic scenes unfolded when a few CBI officials scaled the five-foot-high wall of the bungalow in order to gain entry. Another team attempted entry from the backdoor.
Once three officers reached inside, they opened the gates to allow entry to other team members waiting outside. Soon a team of officers, identifying themselves as from the ED, also arrived. A team of about two dozen officials remained on guard at the bungalow when Chidambaram was inside with Sibal and Singhvi.
Soon afterwards, crowds collected outside the bungalow, forcing the police to step in and cordon off the area. Delhi Police personnel were also posted to prevent any adverse law and order situation.
At 9.45 pm, Chidambaram was finally arrested, putting an end to more than 30 hours of speculation on what would follow next. The Congress leader was taken to the headquarters of the probe agency nearby for questioning, where he will remain overnight. He is set to be produced in a CBI court tomorrow.
After completing arrest formalities, the CBI team had to wade through Congress supporters who had gathered outside raising slogans against the agency. A few supporters jumped on the white car in which Chidambaram was being taken to the agency headquarters.
Chidambaram's son Karti described the CBI action against his father as a drama and a spectacle enacted by probe agencies to simply sensationalise and satisfy the "voyeuristic pleasure" of some. "It's politically motivated and a witch-hunt," he told reporters in Chennai.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala in a tweet said, "The shameless witch-hunt and unheard of abuse of CBI/ED by Modi Govt 2.0 is playing on every TV screen in India. It's a sham and shame that democracy stands dead in the hands of the BJP."
The CBI had sought Chidambaram's "custodial interrogation" in the case pertaining to alleged irregularities in the grant of foreign investment clearances to INX Media when he was the finance minister. They said Chidambaram was summoned last year for questioning in the case but he remained evasive in his responses.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had decided to hear on Friday Chidambaram's petition seeking a stay on the Delhi High Court order dismissing his anticipatory bail plea. That petition, after his arrest, became infructuous for all practical purposes. The senior leader will now have to apply for bail in court.
Chidambaram professes innocence
Earlier, both probe agencies got a free hand to arrest Chidambaram after the Supreme Court listed his plea for hearing on Friday. The CBI and the ED also issued a Look Out Circular (LOC) to prevent any attempt by him to leave the country.
But Chidambaram's sudden appearance in public view on Wednesday night to address a news conference after the CBI and the ED said his whereabouts were not known set off speculation about his imminent arrest.
Chidambaram, who is accused of money laundering and getting kickbacks in the INX media case, asked probe agencies to "respect" the law and wait until Friday when the Supreme Court hears his bail plea. He also put up a strong defence of himself and his family members, saying none of them has been accused of any offence by the probe agencies.
Chidambaram, who was flanked by top Congress lawyers, said there is no charge sheet filed by either the CBI or the ED before a competent court and the FIR recorded by the CBI does not impute him of any wrongdoing.
"Yet there is a widespread impression that grave offences have been committed by and that my son and I have committed that offences. Nothing can be further from the truth. These are lies spread by pathological liars," he said, adding he was granted interim protection from arrest by the High Court.
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday had refused to grant Chidambaram any protection from arrest by rejecting his plea seeking anticipatory bail. Swinging into action after the high court order, a team of CBI officers had landed at the Jor Bagh residence here to locate him but he was not present.
The agency officials returned after pasting a notice at his residence on Tuesday night asking him to be present before the investigation officer of the case within two hours. Chidambaram did not appear before them.
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 finance minister. Afterwards, the ED also lodged a money laundering case in this regard last year.
(With inputs from PTI)
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