New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim protection to former finance minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), but the senior leader will remain in custody as the apex court did not intervene in the CBI case.
The court adjourned hearing on the pleas against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and ED filed by Chidambaram, seeking interim protection against his arrest, to Monday.
The matters were listed before Justices R. Bhanumati and A.S. Bopanna. The CBI had registered the case under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal code and ED has registered the case under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the CBI and ED, submitted at the very outset that the plea for anticipatory bail on the CBI matter became infructuous since Chidambaram had already been arrested.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Chidambaram, argued that the fundamental rights under Article 21 have been violated. As the matter for anticipatory bail was mentioned on Wednesday and just because it could not be taken up, the CBI arrested Chidambaram in the evening, he said, arguing that he still has the right to be heard.
Justice Bhanumati questioned the details of the trial court order for custodial interrogation passed on Thursday evening. Sibal said the special leave petition challenging the order was ready and pleaded for the matters to be listed for Monday.
On the plea against ED, Sibal claimed that the Delhi High Court's single judge had copy-pasted verbal arguments/notes of the respondents as observation in its order. This clearly showed his bias in the case, Sibal added.
Mehta argued that custodial interrogation was necessary for Chidambaram as he had been evasive and avoiding questions using his "mental faculties, grasp of legal and political knowledge".
"Given the background and mental faculties, we will never be able to investigate properly if there is a protective umbrella of anticipatory bail. This is why we need custodial interrogation," said Mehta. "We have electronic evidence, emails exchanges to trace route of illicit, illegal transfer or money. Shell companies were created by those having close connection with P Chidambaram and the money was laundered through these companies."
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, also appearing for Chidambaram, said "How can the HC judge refer to Aircel Maxis case when he was hearing only the INX Media case?" Singhvi added that interim protection was already granted in the other case and it had no relation to the INX Media case.
Mehta said the statement had been made by co-accused Indrani Mukerjea, who is now an approver in the case. He said he would not make any allegation against any judge but will rather concentrate on facts and that the ED was opposing the bail on certain valid grounds.
"Hue and cry is being made.. Political vendetta is being raised but I will give evidence to show why we need custodial interrogation," said Mehta.
The apex court division bench observed that they are inclined to continue his interim protection in the ED case since he had interim protection before as well and it isn't the case of the respondents that he didn't join investigation.
Mehta opposed the interim protection and said, as of now, Chidambaram is already in custody of the CBI hence cannot be arrested. He persistently argued for the case diary to be pursued by the Supreme Court bench and pass an order on Monday on the basis of that.
Mehta tried giving the case diary in a sealed envelope to the Judge. The same diary was given to the CBI judge who passed the order for custodial interrogation on Thursday evening. The bench, however, refused to accept the case diary.
The court also recorded in its order that Chidambaram had always been on bail and he had been cooperating in the investigation in the ED matter. This observation is seen as a setback for ED in its fight against the senior leader’s anticipatory bail and for seeking custodial interrogation.