Officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) then wasted no time in reaching Chidambaram’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 anytime 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 his residence.
Earlier, Chidambaram’s lawyer, senior advocate and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, said outside the Supreme Court that they had gone to the high court and “requested him (Justice Sunil Gaur of the high court) to grant stay because he had been protecting us for 15 months, including the seven months he protected us when the order was reserved".
However, Justice Gaur, while dismissing the bail plea said that the “court cannot permit the probe in this sensitive case to end up in smoke like it has happened in some other high profile cases".
The high court said that the twin factors weighing against Chidambaram were the gravity of the offence and his evasive replies to questions put to him by the probe agencies.
“(It is) preposterous to say prosecution of the petitioner is baseless, politically motivated and act of vendetta," the court said.
“It cannot be forgotten that the petitioner was the finance minister at the relevant time and he had given FDI (foreign direct investment) clearances to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of ₹305 crore…. Simply because he is a member of parliament, it would not justify grant of pre-arrest bail to him," it said.
Chidambaram, a seven-time Lok Sabha MP, is now a Rajya Sabha member. The rules of procedure and conduct of business of the Rajya Sabha state that if a member is arrested or sentenced to imprisonment, the executive authority has to “immediately intimate" the chairman of the House.
Chidambaram could not be immediately reached for comment.
Sibal said that as Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will be on the Constitution bench hearing the Ayodhya case, the petition is to be mentioned at 10:30am before the senior-most judge, who is not on the Constitution bench, PTI reported.
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 to the tune of ₹305 crore in 2007, when Chidambaram was 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 HC has extended the interim protection from time to time, but has also directed Chidambaram to cooperate with the probe agencies. It had reserved its order on his anticipatory bail plea on 25 January this year.
“What we have been witnessing in the last few years is selective targeting and politics of vendetta mainly against the leaders of opposition...there cannot be double standards," senior Congress leader Anand Sharma told reporters on Tuesday night.
*Anuja and Shaswati Das contributed to this story.
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