P Chidambaram being taken out of the court (Image: PTI)
Congress leader P Chidambaram was Thursday sent to CBI custody till August 26 by a Delhi court in the INX Media corruption case. Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar heard the arguments of CBI and Chidambaram's counsel for over one-and-a half-hour before sending Chidambaram to CBI remand till Monday. The former union minister was arrested by the CBI from his residence in New Delhi late on Wednesday.
The arrest happened after he had failed to get protection from the Supreme Court, which did not list for an urgent hearing his appeal against the Delhi High Court verdict dismissing his anticipatory bail plea on Tuesday.
What happened in court on Thursday
Chidambaram was produced before a CBI court at Rouse Avenue Court complex on Thursday afternoon. CBI demanded five-day custody of Chidambaram pleading that the custodial interrogation was justified.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who argued for the CBI, said that the former Finance Minister was "evasive" and "non-cooperative" in the investigation. Mehta said that the case, which is a classic example of money laundering, is in the pre-charge sheet stage.
What did Chidambaram's lawyers say
Congress party leaders and senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek M Singhvi argued on the behalf of the former union minister. Kapil Sibal argued that all the accused in the case were on bail including Bhaskar Raman, Karti Chidambaram, Peter and Indrani Mukherjea. He also said the FIPB approval was given by senior officials, who were not arrested.
He also contended that grant of bail was a rule and the issue before the court was of personal liberty. Sibal contended that what the agency said be not taken as "gospel truth".
He said that Chidambaram was asked 12 questions and he had already answered six of them previously. Sibal said Chidambaram had requested the agency sleuths to take him in custody on Thursday morning as he had not slept for last 24 hours. But they did not listen to him and took him last night itself, he said.
Sibal further argued that CBI could have written a letter to Chidambaram for producing the documents alleged to be in his possession and the agency cannot say he was evasive during the investigation.
Singhvi opposed CBI's plea saying that the former Union Minister was not a flight risk. Singhvi said the entire CBI case was based on the statement of Indrani Mukherjea, who has turned approver in the case. He said Chidambaram cannot answer what CBI wants to hear and added that the agency cannot seek remand on the ground of evasive replies.
He also argued that there was no allegation of tampering of evidence by CBI. Singhvi further contended that police remand can only be granted in special circumstances and this was a case where there was no new development. He said the agency was asking Chidambaram only old questions since his arrest on Wednesday night.
CBI counters Chidambaram's argument
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta countered the arguments advanced on behalf of Chidambaram, saying that everybody was equal before the court. Mehta said CBI has to interrogate Chidambaram in custody as he was non-cooperative and evasive in replies. He told the court that the agency was not extorting confession from Chidambaram but it had the right to reach the root of the case.
"It is a serious case involving intelligent people and we will fail in our duty if we don't get to the root of the case," the solicitor general said, adding that even Karti underwent custodial interrogation in the case.
Mehta said Chidambaram has tremendous potential of not cooperating in probe since he is highly intelligent and certain facts about the case cannot be narrated in the open court. He also opposed the plea that Chidambaram be allowed to argue for himself, saying he has able lawyers representing him.
Mehta said during his initial arguments that Chidambaram entered into a criminal conspiracy with others in the scam.
Court reserves order briefly before granting custody
Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar reserved his order for some time before sending Chidambaram to CBI custody till August 26.
"Considering the facts and circumstances, I am of the view that police custody is justified," Special Judge Kuhar said. He said that during his custody CBI will get Chidambaram medically examined regularly as per the rules, and allowed his family members and lawyers to meet him for half an hour every day.
After the pronouncement of the order, 73-year-old Chidambaram was immediately taken out of the court room by the CBI team.
What's next for Chidambaram?
Chidambaram's plea challenging the Delhi High Court verdict dismissing his anticipatory bail plea in the INX Media case would be heard on Friday by the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice R Banumathi. His plea would be heard in the apex court by a bench comprising Justices Banumathi and A S Bopanna.
On Wednesday, Registrar (Judicial) of the apex court had informed Chidambaram's lawyers that Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi has listed the matter for hearing on Friday.
What is the INX Media case
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as the finance minister. Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2018. (What is INX Media case? READ FULL DETAILS)
(With PTI and ANI Inputs)