The Supreme Court, hearing the petition of former Finance Minister P Chidambaram seeking protection from the arrest, has said that he cannot be arrested by the Enforcement Department till Wednesday.
The senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who is in the CBI’s custody currently, will remain in the agency’s custody at least till Friday. However, former Finance Minister Chidambaram is also being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and he has sought protection from arrest as ED is also seeking custodial interrogation.
Chidambaram’s legal counsel had demanded that the Enforcement Directorate produce the transcript of their questioning session with the senior Congress leader. The lawyers claim that the transcripts will be evidence to prove that he was not evasive but ED did not ask him the right questions. The investigative agency was bent on extracting a confession from the 73-year-old, Abhishek Manu Singhvi claimed.
The CBI which arrested the former minister last week had applied for an extension of his custody, and a Delhi court had extened the custody by 4 days. The agency had contended that Chidambaram was not co-operative with the investigation and that they need more time to question him.
Earlier, Chidambaram was questioned in the INX Media case on three occasions. He has challenged the decision to arrest him, claiming that he had answered to all their questions and the transcripts will prove that.
Appearing on behalf of Mr Chidambaram, senior advocate Kapil Sibal asked a bench of Justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna to order the agency to produce the transcripts of the questioning conducted on December 19 last year, January 1 and 21 this year.
He added that the agencies are just producing documents at random and saying this is part of the case diary. They cannot place the documents behind the back and seek custody of accused, said Kapil Sibal.
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the case against P Chidambaram has been incorrect since the beginning. He added that Enforcement Directorate can not compel Chidambaram to answer.
“Chidambaram said he doesn’t have a bank account abroad and that his son Karti Chidambaram has a foreign account with the permission of the Reserve Bank. The agency’s move to arrest him and keep him in custody amounts to the extraction of confession”, he said.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi further said that the senior Congress leader was denied anticipatory bail on three grounds- absconding and tampering with evidence, flight risk and non-cooperation. Abhishek Singhvi also alleged that the Delhi high court judge, who declined the senior Congress leader’s anticipatory bail plea, was biased.
“Time has come to recommend to the Parliament to suitably amend the law and do away with anticipatory bail provision for high profile people in economic offences”, Singhvi read out from the judge’s statement.
Continuing his attack on the Delhi High Court’s order that rejected bail to the senior Congress leader, Singhvi questioned the high court judge’s choice of words, underlining that the judge had, more than once, described the accusation against Chidambaram as “grave”.
Singhvi said that the judgement had a “subjective element”. “What is grave for one may be less grave for another, so the best and only test of gravity of the offence is the period of the sentence prescribed by the legislature,” Singhvi argued.
The Supreme Court has now postponed the hearing of plea to Wednesday filed against Delhi HC order dismissing his anticipatory bail plea. The arguments in the case will continue Wednesday from 2 pm when Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta will argue on behalf of the Enforcement Directorate.
Earlier on Monday, the special CBI court had extended P Chidambaram’s CBI custody till Friday. The Supreme Court had also refused to take up his appeal for protection against arrest by the CBI, saying it has been overtaken by events.
The INX Media case relates to discrepancies and alleged shady dealings in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the media group for international investment funds worth several hundred crores. Chidambaram was the finance minister at that time.