Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s lawyer on Wednesday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation under what law it had summoned the Congress parliamentarian the previous day within two hours of receipt of a notice in connection with the INX media case, ANI reported.
The CBI was looking to interrogate Chidamabaram on Tuesday after the Delhi High Court rejected his anticipatory bail plea in the case. “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,” said Chidambaram’s lawyer Arshdeep Singh Khurana. “He has been permitted by SC to mention the urgent Special Leave Petition against the order before 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.”
Chidambaram moved the Supreme Court hours after his anticipatory bail was rejected. Around 6.45 pm, a team of Central Bureau of Investigation officials reached the Congress leader’s house but left after questioning the residents. A team from the Enforcement Directorate was seen entering the house soon after, according to The Indian Express.
The CBI team put up the notice outside his house later in the day. “Whereas it appears that you are acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case noted below, which I am now investigating under Chapter 12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 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,” the notice read, according to NDTV.
The case is being investigated by both the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate. Both the agencies had opposed Chidambaram’s bail plea on the ground that his custodial interrogation was required since he was allegedly evasive during questioning.
Justice Sunil Gaur, who rejected the anticipatory bail petition, said it was “preposterous to say the prosecution of Chidambaram is baseless, politically motivated and act of vendetta”. He said it was a “classic case of money laundering” and prima facie facts showed that Chidambaram was the key conspirator in this case. “Simply because he is a MP would not justify grant of pre arrest bail to him,” Gaur said. His son Karti Chidambaram is also an accused in the INX Media case.
“It cannot be forgotten that the petitioner was finance minister at the relevant time and he had given FDI clearance to the INX media group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore,” Gaur said in his 24-page order. The judge also said that Chidambaram was “disentitled from anticipatory bail” in the case, keeping in mind the “magnitude and enormity” of the submissions by the investigating agencies. “This is an economic offence and has to be dealt with iron hands,” the court added. “The hands of investigating agencies cannot be tied up in such a massive economic offence.”
“Economic crimes of such mammoth scale are craftily planned and executed,” the judge added. “Grant of bail in cases like the instant one will send a wrong message to the society. In this case, in view of the enormous material placed on record in respect of distinguished entities, various transactions, etc., this court unhesitatingly opines that bail plea is not acceptable.”
The judge said the court was conscious of the fact that a citizen’s personal liberty was sacrosanct, but added that “none is above the law”. Legislators cannot be allowed “to turn into lawbreakers with impunity, particularly in cases of this magnitude”, Gaur said.
The judge added: “What is so far to be seen is the tip of the iceberg. Pre-arrest is not meant for high-profile economic offenders. Time has come to recommend to the Parliament to suitably amend the law to restrict the provisions of pre-arrest bail and make it inapplicable to economic offenders of high-profile cases like the instant one. It is the need of the hour.”
In May 2017, the Enforcement Directorate filed a money laundering caseagainst Karti Chidambaram, INX Media and its directors Indrani Mukerjea and Peter Mukerjea. Karti Chidambaram’s company allegedly received Rs 10 lakh from INX Media for helping the company escape punitive action for taking Rs 305 crore in foreign funding in 2007 despite having clearance from the Foreign Exchange Promotion Board for only Rs 4 crore.
Karti Chidambaram has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the INX Media case. The Delhi High Court in March admitted a petition by the Central Bureau of Investigation to take on record additional submissions in connection with P Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail application.
The two are also being investigated in the Aircel-Maxis case.
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