The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted former Union minister P Chidambaram interim protection from arrest by the Enforcement Directorate till Wednesday in the INX Media money laundering case, reported Bar and Bench. The senior Congress leader, however, will remain in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s custody till at least Friday.
During the hearing on Tuesday, Chidambaram’s counsels urged the court to direct the Enforcement Directorate to produce transcripts of his interrogation in the case.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, one of Chidambaram’s counsels, asked the bench of Justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna to direct the directorate to produce the transcripts of Chidambaram’s interrogation on December 19, January 1, and January 21, PTI reported. He said the investigating agency cannot place documents in the court randomly and “behind the back” and seek custody of an accused. Sibal said the transcripts would reveal if Chidambaram was evasive during questioning. The Enforcement Directorate had submitted documents in a sealed cover to the Supreme Court.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is also representing the former finance minister, argued that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act was amended in 2009 while the allegations in the case were from 2007 and 2008. “You try and paint a person as a kingpin when these alleged offences did not exist at that time,” he told the court.
Singhvi claimed the Delhi High Court’s order was based on a distorted idea of evasion. “So long as I am available for questioning, I can give whatever answer to the questions put to me,” he added. “I’m not obliged to give the answers that the agencies want to hear.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Enforcement Directorate, responded, saying: “We want his custodial interrogation, not custodial confession.”
To this, Singhvi said there was no question of evasion. “Have I ever refused to come for the questioning?” he asked. “I have answered all the questions put to me. But the only question they are asking is, ‘Do you have an overseas bank account?’ and so forth. This is why we have filed for the transcript of the interrogation.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by Chidambaram against a Delhi High Court order rejecting his anticipatory bail application in the case being investigated by the CBI. The court said the plea was infructuous as the agency had arrested Chidambaram late on August 21 from his home in Delhi.
Both the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate are conducting inquiries in the INX Media case.
The CBI has said there were irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board’s foreign direct investment clearance to INX Media in 2007, when P Chidambaram was the Union finance minister. The company was then owned by businesspersons Indrani and Peter Mukerjea, who are in jail in connection with the murder of Indrani Mukerjea’s daughter Sheena Bora.
According to the CBI, the company of P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram allegedly received Rs 10 lakh from INX Media for helping it escape punitive action for taking Rs 305 crore in foreign funding in 2007 despite having clearance for only Rs 4 crore.
In May 2017, the Enforcement Directorate filed a money laundering case against Karti Chidambaram, INX Media and the Mukerjeas. Indrani Mukerjea and Peter Mukerjea have reportedly told the investigating agencies that when they met P Chidambaram in 2006 in his North Block office, he asked them to meet Karti Chidambaram and help him with his business.
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