The Enforcement Directorate will arrest Congress leader P Chidambaram on Wednesday after a court in Delhi accepted the investigating agency’s custodial interrogation request, NDTV reported on Tuesday. The agency will produce Chidambaram in court around 4 pm to apply for custody.
The 74-year-old former Union finance minister has been in jail since September 5 in connection with the case. He was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is also conducting inquiries, on August 21. Chidambaram’s judicial custody was set to end on October 17, according to News18.
The directorate, which has accused the Congress leader of money laundering, had moved two applications on Monday – to formally arrest Chidambaram, and seek his custody. On Tuesday, the court of special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar gave the Enforcement Directorate two options – to question Chidambaram at the court premises for half an hour and then move an application for custody, or send him to Tihar Jail and arrest him from there.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta offered to interrogate Chidambaram at the Rouse Avenue court premises for 20 minutes. “What is the hurry?” Kuhar asked him before declining the request. He added that the dignity of the accused must be maintained, Hindustan Times reported.
Proceedings in Supreme Court
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court heard Chidambaram’s plea for bail, Live Law reported. Advocate Kapil Sibal, arguing for the former minister, referred to an extract from a Delhi High Court judgement that said Chidambaram was not a flight risk.
Sibal said Chidambaram was denied bail by a special CBI court on the presumption that he would influence witnesses. The order was upheld by the Delhi High Court.
“One cannot be denied bail on presumption that he will influence witnesses,” the defence counsel added. “If witness approaches him, or it is shown that he is influencing, bail can be cancelled.” Sibal said the High Court did not rule out the possibility of Chidambaram influencing witnesses despite not finding any material to corroborate the prosecution’s claims.
Lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, also appearing for Chidambaram, said the three factors cited for denying bail were that Chidambaram could be a flight risk, that he was not cooperating with the investigation, and he may tamper with evidence. Singhvi said all three factors were in the Congress leader’s favour.
“It is said that most things are in my favour yet ‘it cannot be ruled out’,” Singhvi said. “So you’ll deny me bail based on something that may fall on my head. An earthquake can’t be ruled out.”
Singhvi also asked the top court how much credibility it would give to a sealed cover, and allegations made by a person who is in jail for four-and-a-half years for murdering her daughter. He was referring to Indrani Mukerjea and Peter Mukerjea, the former owners of INX Media who reportedly told the investigating agencies that Chidambaram had asked them to meet his son Karti Chidambaram and help him with his business.
Singhvi said the offences P Chidambaram was charged with were punishable by less than seven years in prison. “Bail is the rule, jail is the exception,” he added. Following these arguments, the proceedings was adjourned for the day. The CBI will argue the case on Wednesday.
The Enforcement Directorate filed a money laundering case in May 2017 against Karti Chidambaram, INX Media, and Indrani and Peter Mukerjea.
The CBI has alleged that there were irregularities in the foreign direct investment clearance granted to INX Media by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board in 2007. Chidambaram was the finance minister at the time. The agency has submitted purported emails between INX Media and a company belonging to Karti Chidambaram, claiming that these emails will “prove offences committed”.
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