The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s plea for anticipatory bail in the INX Media case registered by the Enforcement Directorate, PTI reported. According to Bar and Bench, the court will pronounce its verdict on September 5.
The court directed the directorate to submit the materials collected by it in a sealed cover within three days, Live Law reported.
The court also posted for September 2 the hearing of Chidambaram’s plea challenging the trial court’s August 22 order remanding him to the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation, ANI reported.
During proceedings, the Enforcement Directorate told the court that it required Chidambaram’s custody as money laundering was an offence against “society and nation”, PTI reported. A day earlier, the top court had extended the Congress leader’s interim protection from arrest in the INX Media money laundering case till Thursday.
The senior Congress leader is presently in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s custody till at least Friday. Both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate are conducting inquiries in the INX Media case.
The ED told a bench of Justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna that it cannot show the evidence collected against Chidambaram during their investigation at this stage as material related to layers of money might be erased.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that there was no requirement of “exposing the materials, sources and evidence to the accused at the stage of pre-arrest bail”, and said investigation was the exclusive domain of the probe agency. “If an accused at large is confronted with the evidence collected, then the agency will have exposed its evidence and witnesses and it will give a chance to the accused to tamper with evidence and erase the money trail,” Mehta told the court, according to Bar and Bench.
Mehta said the art of investigation is that the agency knows what information in possession should be revealed, and what should not be.
“Money laundering is an offence against the society and the nation and probe agency has a right and duty to unearth the entire conspiracy,” Mehta said, adding that the Supreme Court has consistently held that economic offences are the “gravest of grave” irrespective of the sentence prescribed for it.
The ED also argued that it has material to “show that laundering of money continued after 2009 and even today” in the INX Media case. It said it wants to interrogate Chidambaram in custody and without the “protective umbrella” of anticipatory bail.
Meanwhile, Chidambaram’s counsel asked the ED to produce transcripts of his interrogation in the case. “It is not my case that they [agencies] can’t arrest,” Kapil Sibal told the court. “All we’re saying is if you have put the material to confront Chidambaram like you have claimed in your counter affidavit, show it to the court.”
The arguments in the case continued through the day.
On August 20, the Delhi High Court had rejected Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea in both the CBI and ED cases, after which he moved the Supreme Court. However, by the time the court heard his pleas on Monday, the CBI had already arrested Chidambaram and the petition in the CBI case was infructuous. Since then, the top court has been hearing his plea in connection with the case filed by the ED.
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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