A special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday allowed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate former finance minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram in the money laundering case linked to INX Media.
“The application for arrest of accused is being treated as an application for interrogation for accused in ECIR….and is allowed accordingly," the court said.
The special court’s order said “the accused may be interrogated by the investigating officer in central jail, Tihar", on 16 October 2019 after 8.30 am, and also sanctioned his arrest if required under section 19 of PMLA.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the probe agency on Monday, told special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar that there is a finding by the Supreme Court that custodial interrogation of Chidambaram is necessary. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Chidambaram opposed the custody sought by the probe agency. “The CBI has already sought his custody for investigating payment and companies abroad, which the ED wants to probe now," he argued.
Mehta argued that money laundering is an independent and standalone offence and doesn’t form part of the same transaction.
The senior Congress leader is at present in judicial custody in the case filed by CBI, with the special court on 3 October extending the custody till 17 October.
Meanwhile, in the Supreme Court, a division bench headed by justice R. Bhanumathi adjourned the hearing of Chidambaram’s bail plea in the INX Media case to 2pm on Wednesday. The CBI will argue its case on Wednesday with Chidambaram’s counsel concluding arguments on Tuesday.
“Bail is the rule, jail is an exception. Arrest is the stigma and harassment," said senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Chidambaram. “How much credibility will your lordships give to a sealed cover without an affidavit and give credibility to an accused who is also in jail on a murder charge, that too of her own daughter," he asked. Singhvi was referring to Indrani Mukherjea, co-founder of INX Media, who is the main accused in the murder of her daughter Sheena Bora.
The Supreme Court on 4 October had issued notice to CBI on the bail plea filed by Chidambaram in the INX Media case. The veteran Congress leader had on 3 October moved the Supreme Court seeking bail in the case.
This came after the Delhi high court on 30 September dismissed the bail plea of the veteran Congress leader in the money laundering and corruption case related to INX Media. Justice Suresh Kait had then said that Chidambaram was not a flight risk but he could possibly influence witnesses.
The CBI had registered an FIR in May 2017 for alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of ₹305 crore in 2007, when Chidambaram was the finance minister in the United Progressive Alliance-1 government at the Centre. Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case against him.