A Delhi court has remanded Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram in seven-day custody of the Enforcement Directorate in the INX Media case.
Arrested by the CBI on August 21, Chidambaram has been in judicial custody since September 5. He was arrested inside Tihar jail on Wednesday by the ED, which is probing charges of money laundering in the same case. Chidambaram has denied the ED’s claims of bank accounts or properties abroad.
The court said the ED could have utilised the time “the accused was in judicial custody in the CBI matter to examine him with regard to the material available with the ED”. However, it said the court was “not inclined to deny an opportunity to ED to interrogate the accused in present case to facilitate proper investigation” to “reach a logical end” and allowed custodial interrogation till October 24.
Seeking 14-day custody of Chidambaram, the ED, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, told Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar, “First of all need for custodial interrogation is recognised by Supreme Court, but to satisfy the conscience of this court, I will produce material collected by the ED with regard to the money laundering investigation. We have detailed facts, figures and references on what material is collected.”
Mehta said that Chidambaram had on September 5 volunteered for custodial interrogation which he opposed as the agency wanted to fully utilise the 15-day remand period. Submitting the agency’s findings before and after September 5, Mehta said, “The investigating agency wanted to make the arrest after taking down the statements. The ED investigation is totally different and distinct… (ED) has examined 12 witnesses. On October 9, the last witness was examined. We are not guilty of any delay, we were prompt.”
However, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for Chidambaram, strongly protested to the ED application, calling it a ruse. “I (Chidambaram) have appeared thrice. Last time on February 8… They never called me after that. So there was no material till September 5. What has happened that suddenly they have found material? This is a ruse. And now they need 15 days remand?” he asked.
Sibal told the court that the ED has been talking of bank accounts, shell companies, letters rogatory and properties for the past two years but had not confronted Chidambaram with the same. “Show me one bank account, one property. Whatever they have asked me (Chidambaram), I told them that I have no knowledge.”
Sibal then told the court that it must be examined whether the 12 witnesses were available in the past two years and why they were not examined earlier.
The court said, “The investigating officer in the present case never approached this court for examination of the accused while he was in custody in the CBI matter.
The witnesses which have been examined must have been available earlier also as the case was registered back on 18.5.2017. These witnesses could have been examined earlier but again I would say the investigating officer is the best person to know when to examine which witnesses.”
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