A petition filed by Nalini Chidambaram – senior advocate and wife of Congress leader P Chidambaram challenging a Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons was dismissed by the Madras High Court on Tuesday. She has been summoned by the ED as a witness in the infamous Sharada chit fund scam.
As per legal websites, Ms. Chidambaram had argued against her personal presence in the investigation by claiming that Section 160 of CrPC states that a woman can’t be required to attend an investigation in any place excluding her area of residence. It was also argued that ED’s repeated insistence on her appearance amounted to harassment.
Justice S.M. Subramaniam though rejected this contention by observing that, “citing general provisions of section 160 cannot result in someone seeking absolute exemption from personal appearance in the investigative process”. The judge also observed that the exception has been provided for vulnerable women, which was not the case in all circumstances.
The Judge also assuaged Ms. Chidambaram by reminding her that she was only being summoned after her authorised representative N.R.R. Arun Nataraja gave an unsatisfactory explanation.
The summon in question was issued by the ED on 7 September 2016, asking Ms. Chidambaram to be present at their Kolkata office. This was prompted via a statement made by a chit scam accused named Manoranjana Sinh that, Ms. Chidambaram was paid Rs 1 crore by the Saradha Group for her court appearances. As per ED, the legal fee was paid via the money collected from the public in form of chits.
Later a stay order was imposed on the summons by the Madras High Court on 21 September 2016.
This might come as a bit of a blow to the Chidambaram family, whose member Karti is one of the accused in the INX Media Case, and is currently out on bail. It has been reported that Indrani Mukherjea (accused of murdering her daughter), had admitted to paying a Rs 5 crore bribe to one of Karti’s firms. This was allegedly paid with the motive to acquire “dubious and illegal” post facto FIPB clearances given to INX media by then Finance Minister P Chidambaram.