New Delhi: Former finance minister P Chidambaram was on Wednesday sent back to Tihar jail till 13 November in the INX Media money laundering case by a Delhi court, which said sufficient time had been given to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate him.
Dismissing the agency's plea seeking one day custodial interrogation of Chidambaram, special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said that the 15-day custody under the law is not a "ritualistic formality".
"I think sufficient time has been given for the custodial interrogation of the accused. No doubt the interrogation is the prerogative of the investigating officer but at the same time the provision for 15 days police/ED custody is not a ritualistic formality which is to be completed in all the cases necessarily sans justification," the judge said.
The court directed the Tihar Jail authority to provide adequate security to the senior Congress leader, considering that he is a protected person. "He may be allowed to carry his prescribed medicines. It shall be ensured that the accused is medically examined for his illness at the jail hospital and if required, in any multidisciplinary hospital like RML Hospital, Safdarjung, or AIIMS Hospital.
"The Superintendent, Central Jail, Tihar, Delhi shall provide the facility of western toilet to the accused (Chidambaram), especially home food considering his medical record and ailments. However, the home food shall be delivered in the office of Superintendent who shall provide the same to the accused after necessary security checks," the court said in its order.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the probe agency, sought one day custodial remand of Chidambaram, saying one day was still left in the statutory period of ED custody. "We would like to effectively use the one day left with us," he said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Chidambaram, opposed the submission and said ED has not confronted Chidambaram with a single witness during their 14 days custody. "Every day is the same story. There is no point opposing. They have still not confronted him with any witness," he said.
To this, Mehta said summons were issued to the co-conspirators and witnesses to confront the accused but they did not appear. The ED, in its remand application, had said that the accused may also be required to be examined in the judicial custody after statutory period of 15 days of ED custody was over.
The court said in its order, "So far as the confrontation of the accused with the record is concerned, if there is a need, it can be done even when the accused is in judicial custody. I do not see any justified grounds to extend the remand of the accused in ED custody.
The court also noted that the investigation was still in progress and Chidambaram's bail application was pending before the Delhi High Court. "Thus, having considered the facts and circumstances of the case, the accused is remanded in judicial custody till 13 November," it said.
The court also observed that when Chidambaram had moved an application to surrender in the present case, it was opposed by the ED on the ground that they do not want his custody as they wanted to complete the investigation on some aspect of the money laundering to make the custodial interrogation meaningful and effective.
"Now, the accused is in custody of the ED since 17 October but he has not been confronted with any of the person examined after the application for surrender was moved," it said. Chidambaram was arrested by the CBI on 21 August in the INX Media corruption case and is currently in ED's custody in a related money laundering matter.
The CBI had registered an FIR on 15 May, 2017 alleging irregularities in a 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.
Thereafter, the ED lodged a money-laundering case in this regard in 2017. The ED had taken him in custody on 16 October.
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Updated Date: Oct 30, 2019 22:17:16 IST