Updated: August 27, 2019 6:44:51 am
The CBI Monday called former Niti Aayog CEO Sindhushree Khullar to confront her with Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media case even as a Delhi special court extended his remand in the agency’s custody till August 30 for further investigation. Khullar has been called again Tuesday.
A retired IAS officer, Khullar was Additional Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs when Chidambaram was Finance Minister. According to the CBI, it was during this period that there were alleged irregularities in the grant of FIPB clearance to INX Media.
Flouting the conditional FIPB approval, INX Media, the CBI claimed, brought in over Rs 305 crore FDI against the approved inflow of Rs 4.62 crore. Chidambaram’s son Karti is also an accused in the case.
In his defence, Chidambaram had earlier said that FIPB decisions had been taken by the board and Ministry officials.
In the special court Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, told special CBI judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar that the agency needed to confront Chidambaram with another co-accused — the identity of the co-accused was not made public — and documents and emails related to the case.
The CBI sought his custody for another five days — he had been arrested on August 21 — but judge Kuhar granted four days, saying “further police custody remand of the accused P Chidambram is justified and accordingly he is remanded to further police custody till August 30, 2019”.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court refused to entertain Chidambaram’s plea challenging the Delhi High Court order which had dismissed his anticipatory bail plea in the corruption case lodged by the CBI.
Observing that his plea had become infructuous, the bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna said he could apply for regular bail in the court concerned which would decide the matter without being influenced in any manner by the observations of any other court.
Chidambaram’s plea against the order remanding him to CBI custody was not listed for hearing Monday with the Supreme Court saying the Registry was yet to get instructions from the Chief Justice of India.
The bench also extended till Tuesday the interim protection from arrest granted to him in the money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate. It said it will continue to hear arguments on his petition seeking pre-arrest bail in the matter.
In the special court, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Dayan Krishnan and advocate P K Dubey, appearing for Chidambaram, opposed the remand extension request, saying the CBI at the last hearing had mentioned about payments, but in over 26 hours of interrogation it had “not put to me (Chidambaram) any question related to the allegation of payment to the tune of five million US dollar and 4,50,000 US dollar”.
Sibal said the amount was mentioned only to sensationalise the case and the CBI “only asked me (Chidambaram), did co-accused Peter Mukerjea give you this money, to which the answer is ‘no’.” He said the CBI had no evidence and its investigation was “clouded”.
Opposing this, Mehta said “there is prima facie evidence to confront the accused and on the allegations of payment made to accused, Letters of Rogatory have been sent to five countries”.
In the Supreme Court, Sibal, speaking for Chidambaram, said “my reputation is being destroyed on a daily basis... you destroy a man. Many people don’t distinguish between arrest pre-conviction and post-conviction”. He also raised “strong objection” to the ED asking the bench to look at certain documents it had submitted to the court in a sealed cover. He said it was intended “only to prejudice you (court)”.
Initially, the bench said it would look at the papers during the lunch break. But Sibal objected and questioned the procedure under which the agency could submit documents to the court in sealed cover. “I don’t know what’s in them. It has not been put to me during examination. This is a violation of Article 21 rights”.
On the agency’s contention that it was submitting its case diary to the court, Sibal said the ED does not maintain a case diary. Solicitor General Mehta said what he meant was the case file which contain investigation records.
The ED, while arguing its case before the Supreme Court on August 23 and in an affidavit filed Monday, accused Chidambaram and “his co-conspirators” of floating a “web of shell companies” in India and abroad to launder money.a
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