Nearly 140 Supreme Court lawyers on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court Bar Association to pass a resolution against the top court’s refusal to urgently hear former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s petition in the INX Media case the previous day, Live Law reported. The plea will be heard on Friday.
The lawyers said they were deeply concerned at the “manner in which matter related to life and liberty of citizens are being dealt with by the judiciary”, and urged the association to take up the matter with Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
“The founders of the Constitution could never have imagined that the Supreme Court could deny urgent and immediate listing upon mentioning of a matter relating to most senior member of the Bar, Mr P Chidambaram,” the letter said. It also pointed out that Chidambaram has more than 40 years of experience as a member of the Bar. The signatories included senior advocates such as CU Singh, Meenakshi Arora, Harin P Raval, Jaideep Gupta, Siddharth Luthra, Jayant Bhushan and Rajeev Dhavan.
P Chidambaram was arrested late on Wednesday amid high drama at his Delhi home. Earlier that day, his lawyers had moved the Supreme Court to request urgent listing of a plea for protection from arrest. The court had asked them to wait despite two attempts by the lawyers, and finally, in the evening, agreed to hear the plea on Friday. A special Central Bureau of Investigation court on Thursday remanded Chidambaram to the agency’s custody till August 26.
“If normal procedure of urgent listing is not followed, the edifice of our constitutional values would be slowly dismantled,” the advocates’ letter on Wednesday said. “The denial of urgent listing in a matter of anticipatory bail of a senior member of the Bar leads us to conclude that the rule of law and democracy are in peril.”
It added: “We expect an even-handed approach of the honourable court without, in any manner commenting on the merits of the SLP [Special Leave Petition] filed by Mr Chidambaram, we are disappointed that even a hearing was denied to him when in cases of protecting personal liberties, the honourable Supreme Court has been very proactive.”
The CBI has alleged that there were irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board’s Foreign Direct Investment clearance – which is the government’s approval for foreign investment – to INX Media in 2007, when P Chidambaram was the finance minister. The company was then owned by Indrani and Peter Mukerjea, who are in jail in connection with the murder of Indrani’s daughter Sheena Bora.
The CBI said that 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.
In May 2017, the Enforcement Directorate filed a money laundering case against Karti Chidambaram, INX Media and the Mukerjeas.
Reports on Thursday claimed that Indrani Mukerjea and Peter Mukerjea had told the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate last year that when they met P Chidambaram in 2006, when he was the finance minister, in his North Block office, he asked them to meet his son Karti Chidambaram and help him in his business. Karti Chidambaram has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the INX Media case.
Karti and P Chidambaram are also being investigated in the Aircel-Maxis case.
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