Noting that “it is not a case where no case is made out against the accused” and that “investigation is still in progress”, a Delhi court Thursday extended the judicial custody of senior Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram, arrested by the CBI in the INX Media case, till October 3.
When Chidambaram appeared in the Rouse Avenue court of Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar at the end of his two-week judicial custody, his lawyer Kapil Sibal told the judge that Chidambaram does not have a chair in his cell: “His
chair was taken away, his pillow was also taken away. He has developed a back problem… he can only sit on his bed.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, said: “This has been done to sensationalise the issue. You could have told me about this.” At this, Sibal said: “We are not sensationalising the issue, we are moving a formal application.”
Chidambaram then addressed the judge, clarifying that jail authorities had placed two-three chairs in the hall outside his cell. “I would sit with the warden. All the chairs were removed. For my sake, the warden is not given the chair.” When Sibal told Chidambaram: “No, why can you not have a chair inside your room,” he said: “That’s okay, leave it.”
Mehta then addressed the judge: “I am glad that he (Chidambaram) has clarified this issue. Health of any inmate is of concern. Whatever is permissible in law will be done by the jail authorities.”
Judge Kuhar said there was no change in the circumstances and noted that Chidambaram has already moved a bail plea before the Delhi High Court.
“This court has considered the grounds for police custody and thereafter for judicial custody and granted remand accordingly. There is no change in the circumstances as such. It is not a case where no case is made out against the accused. The investigation is still in progress. The accused has already applied for bail before the Delhi high court. Therefore, as per understanding of this court, the judicial remand of the accused has to be extended. Accordingly, the judicial remand of the accused is extended till October 3,” he said.
Earlier, when he was brought to the court, Chidambaram was welcomed by his supporters outside the court room. His son Karti was also present in the court.
Mehta moved an application seeking extension of Chidambaram’s judicial custody. He told the court “there has been no change of circumstance from the day he was first sent to jail.”
Chidambaram was represented by three senior advocates — Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Dayan Krishnan. Sibal told the judge, “Nothing in their application states as to why the extension is required.” Singhvi said the reason cited by CBI for extension is “spurious”.
Singhvi told the court that Chidambaram be medically examined and the remand period shortened since he had various ailments like coronary artery disease, hypertension, impaired glycaemia and had lost weight while in custody.
The court allowed medical examination of Chidambaram. “It is directed that the medical record submitted by the accused today be sent to Superintendent Central Jail Tihar who shall ensure that the accused is examined medically for his illness at the jail hospital and, if required, be examined in multi-disciplinary hospital/institute like AIIMS, Safdarjung or Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.”
It also directed the jail superintendent to consider Chidambaram’s request to provide a chair and pillow considering his complaint regarding back pain.
Arrested on August 21 by the CBI which is probing alleged corruption in the INX Media case, Chidambaram was earlier remanded in judicial custody till September 19.
In May 2017, the CBI had registered an FIR 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 when Chidambaram was Finance Minister. The ED later lodged a money laundering case in the matter.