With trouble brewing for Congress leader and former union minister P. Chidambaram in the INX Media case, all eyes are on the Supreme Court hearing due on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Chidambaram’s plea for an anticipatory bail was rejected by the Delhi High Court giving probe agencies opportunity to arrest the veteran politician. The Delhi High Court had been granting Chidambaram protection from arrest since July last year.
Chidambaram’s plea will be placed before the most senior bench in the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning.
Soon after the rejection of Chidambaram’s plea for an anticipatory bail, officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) reached the former minister’s residence on Tuesday evening. However, the former finance minister was not at home. A person familiar with the development said the CBI could arrest him any time until the hearing in the apex court on Wednesday morning.
Quick on the heels of the CBI, officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also arrived at Chidambaram’s residence. Officials from CBI had arrived at his residence on Wednesday morning as well.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal representing Chidambaram will mention the plea against the Delhi High Court's order rejecting the anticipatory bail today in the Supreme Court. The plea will be mentioned before the senior-most judge appointed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi to hear the case at 10.30 am.
The matter shall not be heard by Gogoi because he is a part of the constitutional bench involved in the day-to-day hearing of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.
The appointed judge will hear the case on the two questions, on why anticipatory bail ought to be granted to Chidambaram and the grounds on which the Delhi High Court order, rejecting the bail on Tuesday, should be superseded.
The case relates to a first information report registered by the CBI on 15 May 2017 against alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance provided to INX Media for receiving overseas funds of around ₹305 crore in 2007, when Chidambaram was the finance minister. The ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2018.
On 25 July 2018, the high court granted him interim protection from arrest till 1 August. The high court had extended the interim protection from time to time, but also directed Chidambaram to cooperate with probe agencies. It had reserved its order on his anticipatory bail plea on 25 January this year.
A notice pasted outside Chidambaram’s residence, which was undersigned by the investigating officer in the INX Media case said "Whereas it appears that you are acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case noted below….you are hereby directed to attend before me within two hours of the receipt of this notice for the purpose of investigation of the case."
In reply to the notice Chidambaram's counsel, Advocate Arshdeep Singh Khurana wrote to CBI stating that "I am instructed to state that your notice fails to mention the provision of law under which my client has been issued a notice to appear within two hours."
Khurana also pointed out that the apex court has allowed the mentioning of the case and said, "He (Mr Chidambaram) has been permitted by the Supreme Court to mention the urgent special leave petition against the order before the court at 10:30 am today. I, therefore, request you not to take any coercive action against my client till then and await the hearing at 10:30 am…Furthermore, my client is exercising the rights available to him in law and had approached the Supreme Court on August 20 seeking urgent reliefs in respect of the order dismissing his anticipatory bail (in INX Media case)."