New Delhi: Former finance minister P. Chidambaram was on Thursday sent to judicial custody till 19 September by the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI’s) special court hearing money laundering and corruption charges related to the INX Media case.
Chidambaram, who has already served 14 days in CBI custody, was produced before special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar in the court and has now been lodged in a separate cell in Tihar jail in Delhi.
“The allegations against the accused were found serious; therefore he was remanded to police custody (earlier). The investigation of the case is still in progress," the order read.
“The CBI has apprehension that because of his status and position, the investigation may be hampered by the accused. It is not a case where accused can be ‘released’ at the stage of considering his extension of remand as submitted by the learned Senior Counsel for the accused. Now having considered all the facts and circumstances of the case, the nature of offences, the stage of investigation, the accused is remanded to judicial custody."
“At this stage, an application has been moved seeking to carry his spectacles, prescribed medicines and facility of western toilet. He has moved another application for direction to the jail authority to provide adequate security considering that he has Z-category security. It is also prayed that separate cell with adequate security be provided. The requests made in the applications, stand allowed," it added.
The CBI submitted that the Congress leader should be sent to judicial custody because the offences that are being investigated are serious in nature and have far-reaching ramifications. It said Chidambaram is a powerful and influential person in public life and wields “substantial and pervasive influence" over witnesses while also fearing the possibility of the tampering of evidence.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for his former cabinet colleague, said that there’s no scope of tampering with evidence, pointing out that Chidambaram is willing to surrender and stay in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate.
“Why should I be sent to judicial custody at all. They have asked me all the questions they wanted to ask me. I have filed an application that I am willing to be sent to the custody of Enforcement Directorate. I am willing to surrender. So either I surrender, or ED takes me to custody. Even if there is a prima facie case… that can’t be the basis of sending me to judicial custody." Sibal argued.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court rejected the senior Congress leader’s anticipatory bail in the INX Media money laundering case filed by the ED.
An apex court bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi and comprising Justice A.S. Bopanna, agreed with the ED plea that Chidambaram should be sent for custodial interrogation. Chidambaram had filed a petition against the Delhi high court order rejecting his anticipatory bail on 20 August.
The bench also upheld the prosecutionthat the case diary of the CBI and ED be perused by the court. This is allowed as the case relates to economic offences and the gravity of the offence pushes the court to approach it differently.
After the Supreme Court rejected the anticipatory bail plea, Chidambaram’s team withdrew a petition challenging his arrest and custodial interrogation in the INX Media corruption case lodged by the CBI.
The CBI, on 15 May 2017, registered an FIR against Chidambaram for alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance provided to INX Media for receiving foreign funds of ₹305 crore in 2007 when he was finance minister. The money laundering cases lodged by the ED in this regard date back to 2018. Chidambaram was arrested on 21 August.