New Delhi: CBI special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar on Thursday remanded former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) custody till 26 August on a plea filed by the probe agency for custodial interrogation.
A Delhi court had on Wednesday at around 4:30pm issued non –bailable warrants against Chidambaram on an application moved by the probe agency that he was untraceable. Following this, Chidambaram was arrested from his residence late evening and taken to the CBI headquarters where he spent the night.
On Thursday, Chidambaram was produced at the Rouse Avenue court at 3:30pm. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, began the arguments by pleading for five days of custodial interrogation on the grounds that Chidambaram remained evasive and non-cooperative during the investigation.
Mehta argued that Chidambaram “took advantage of the protective cover provided by the Delhi high court." He further contended that “certain questions can be answered only when the accused is not under the protective umbrella…Mere appearance becomes a formality when the accused is under a protective umbrella."
Mehta alleged that Chidambaram was evasive to the questions put to him and those could only have been answered by him. He also said that since the case is of such “serious monumental magnitude", the plea for five days custody should be granted. He also referred to the findings of Justice Sunil Gaur of Delhi high court who while rejecting the anticipatory bail had stated that in economic offences of such grave magnitude, bail cannot be granted.
The Delhi high court had also called it a “classic case of money laundering", Mehta submitted.
While placing the case diary before the CBI judge, Mehta highlighted that the facts from the case diary clearly depict that there was an “active, serious and informed role of the accused person" (Chidambaram in this case). He also informed that there is an evidence of money trail mentioned in the case diary that needs to be investigated further.
Mehta also told the court that Chidambaram was not providing all the documents necessary for the investigation, despite being asked repeatedly.
In the latter half of the arguments, Mehta rejected the contentions put forth by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who both made submissions for Chidambaram one after the other. Mehta stated that Karti Chidambaram was not let out simply on regular bail but arrested and remanded to custody before the bail was granted. Arguing against the contention of Sibal that the draft chargesheet is ready and investigation is complete, Mehta argued that an affidavit stating that further investigation under the provisions of Section 173 of Criminal Procedure Code is continuing, has been filed in the Delhi high court. In pursuance to the ongoing investigation, interrogation is a statutory right of the investigating agency and hence, custody is required for further interrogation.
Further, as to the question of why Chidambaram was called only once by the probe agencies, Mehta said that, “We had a reasonable ground to come to the conclusion that we may not be able to reach the truth unless the protective umbrella is removed."
The solicitor general twice objected to the plea made by Sibal and Singhvi to allow Chidambaram to represent himself in the court. He said that this was beyond the procedures of the court. “I did not object to two counsels arguing for Chidambaram, but this is objectionable," said Mehta.
The solicitor general also expressed his dismay at the argument over the time the interrogation was started on Thursday, and the nature of the questions asked in the interrogation. “How can questions related to investigation be asked and explained in court? Interrogation of the offence is my duty. You cannot say interrogation didn’t start at 8.30. We started at 10.30. Is that a ground to oppose my case?," exclaimed Mehta. The solicitor general further claimed that even on Thursday, Chidambaram remained evasive.