A special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Delhi on Monday extended former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s custody till Tuesday, reported Bar and Bench. The court will take up his plea for interim bail in the INX media case at 3.30 pm on Tuesday. The former finance minister was arrested by the CBI in connection with the case on August 21.

During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought a day’s custody of Chidambaram. He said the Congress leader’s bail plea should be rejected as he can “influence the witness”.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court had asked Chidambaram to approach the trial court for interim bail in the INX Media case, Bar and Bench reported.

The top court said that a status quo should be maintained till then if the trial court rejected his plea. This effectively means that if Chidambaram did not get interim bail, he would not be sent to Tihar Jail.

Initially, the court said it will take up the case on Thursday again. During the post-lunch session, Solicitor General Mehta asked the Supreme Court to take up the matter on Tuesday. The bench agreed.

During the Supreme Court hearing, Chidambaram’s counsel Kapil Sibal said the former minister should not be sent to Tihar jail as he is 74 years old, and should be protected, NDTV reported. Sibal urged the court to place Chidambaram under house arrest.

“The remand order is under challenge,” Bar and Bench quoted Sibal as saying. “If the matter is not heard, today he will be sent to Tihar and tomorrow CBI will say the matter has become infructuous.”

The government’s counsel objected to Sibal’s plea and said it was not possible under the law. However, Justice R Banumathi accepted Sibal’s petition, Live Law reported.

In CBI custody, Chidambaram has been put in a suite of the agency’s headquarters in Delhi, reported NDTV. The CBI said it was the special CBI court that has to decide where the Congress leader should be held. Judges R Banumathi and AS Bopanna, asked why Chidambaram was not making the request before the special CBI court, which has to decide on his custody.

Both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate are conducting inquiries in the case. On August 20, the Delhi High Court had rejected Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea in both 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.

On Thursday, the top court reserved its order in the Enforcement Directorate case, posting it for September 5.

The 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 caseagainst 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.

Aircel-Maxis case

Meanwhile, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate told a court in Delhi on Monday that P Chidambaram had granted approval to Aircel-Maxis deal beyond his capacity when he was the finance minister.

The agencies alleged the Congress leader had received kickbacks and his decision had benefitted certain people, PTI reported. They opposed the anticipatory bail applications filed by P Chidambaram and Karti Chidambaram, alleging the two were not cooperating with investigators. The Chidambarams need to be dealt with an “iron hand”, the CBI told the court of Special judge OP Saini. The investigating agencies claimed the Chidambarams had committed serious economic offences, and there was a conspiracy against national interest.

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