Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram will be subjected to custodial interrogation by the CBI for another four days as a Delhi court sent him to the investigation agency's custody till 30 August in the INX Media case. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court extended his protection from arrest till Tuesday in the money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
During the hearing in a CBI trial court, Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar accepted the agency's demand that Chidambaram's custodial interrogation was required. "Investigation is the prerogative of the investigating officer which he has to conduct within the framework of law... I am of the view that further police custody remand of accused Chidambaram is justified and accordingly, the accused is remanded to further police custody till 30 August," the judge said.
The court allowed Chidambaram's family members and lawyers to meet him for half-an-hour daily during the CBI custody.
During the hearing, CBI's lawyers Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor-General KN Nataraj said there was sufficient ground for extension of the custodial interrogation as he was confronted with a co-accused during the interrogation from 23 to 26 August.
"We need five days of custody of Chidambaram as the confrontation with co-accused will continue to unearth larger conspiracy," Mehta had contended. Chidambaram was produced in the court on expiry of his four-day CBI custody, which was granted to the agency on 22 August.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Chidambaram, opposed Mehta for referring to documents filed by the ED. After speaking to Chidambaram in the court for two minutes, Sibal said that in the previous remand application, there was a mention of $5 million bribe but not a single document was put to him during these four days.
He claimed that not a single question with regard to shell companies or bank accounts had been asked to Chidambaram."There has been 26 hours of questioning, still nothing was asked on all these issues," he said. "At least the process of investigation should be fair."
Mehta said Letters Rogatory (LRs) have been sent to five countries and the investigators are trying to link the transactions of the accused related with the case.
"There is prima facie evidence to link the accused with $5 million (bribe). We are awaiting a response on LRs from the five countries," Mehta told the court. LRs are a formal request from a court to a foreign court for certain judicial assistance.
Sibal said an accused cannot be put in custody till the investigators get the evidence and asked the agency to show the basis of an allegation of $5 million (bribe) against Chidambaram.
During the hearing, the court questioned the manner in which the case diary was placed before it. Sibal also objected to the format of the case diary. To this, the CBI said that the case diary was in loose pages as the format booklet was out of stock.
SC dismisses 'infructuous' plea against CBI
In the Supreme Court — where Chidambaram had earlier filed separate petitions challenging the Delhi High Court order rejecting his anticipatory bail plea in both CBI and ED cases — a bench of justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna observed that the plea against anticipatory bail in the CBI case had become infructuous as he was already in the agency's custody.
Justice Banumathi said, "We cannot convert the special leave petition, where you are challenging the high court order, to a bail plea." The court then granted Chidambaram the liberty to seek regular bail.
When the Supreme Court heard the special leave petition against the ED case, Sibal questioned the handing over of certain documents in a sealed cover to the Delhi High Court and said that Chidambaram was not aware of these documents or notes. "The attempt to produce documents without the accused ever knowing what is being produced is in violation of fundamental rights," he said.
Mehta contended that the discovery of a large number of mails, bank accounts, and other things relevant to the investigation were never provided to Chidambaram. "He was examined by ED thrice and only once by the CBI. Neither agencies put any of this before him," he said.
The apex court will continue the hearing in the matter on Tuesday at 12 pm.
Chidambaram, 73, served as the Union home minister and the finance minister during the UPA rule between 2004 and 2014. On 15 May, 2017, the CBI registered an FIR 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 Enforcement Directorate lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Aug 27, 2019 07:09:00 IST