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INX Media case: Chidambaram remanded in CBI custody till Aug 30; faces setback in SC

Probing alleged charges of corruption in the case, the CBI arrested Chidambaram last week, on August 21, amid high drama — its personnel scaled the boundary wall of his New Delhi home to reach him — after he addressed the press at the Congress headquarters and headed home.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 26, 2019 8:56:39 pm
Congress leader P Chidambaram being taken by the CBI after a Delhi court extended his remand for four more days. (Express photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

A Delhi special court Monday remanded Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram in CBI custody for an additional four days till August 30 in the INX Media case. Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said the CBI demand that Chidambaram has to be further interrogated in its custody was “justified”.

“Investigation is the prerogative of the investigating officer which he has to conduct within the framework of law… I am of the view that further police custody remand of accused P Chidambaram is justified and accordingly, the accused is remanded to further police custody till August 30,” the judge said.

The court allowed Chidambaram’s family members and lawyers to meet him for half-an-hour daily during the CBI custody.

Last week, the CBI court had remanded Chidambaram in CBI custody till August 26, observing that the allegations against him in the INX Media case were “serious in nature” for which a “detailed and in-depth investigation is required”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General K N Natrajan, appearing for the investigative agency, informed the court that the interrogation was incomplete as Chidambaram had to be confronted with his co-accused in the case to “unearth a larger conspiracy”. The prosecutors also placed before the court a file containing email exchanges between the accused persons.

Senior Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram after being produced at a CBI court in the INX media case, in New Delhi, Monday, Aug 26, 2019.(Express Photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

“We need five days of custody of Chidambaram as the confrontation with co-accused will continue to unearth larger conspiracy,” PTI quoted Mehta as informing the court.

The Solicitor General also said it was necessary to confront Chidambaram with regard to relevant e-mails and it was necessary to go into the roots of the issue. “Certain documents and evidence have emerged which need to be confronted and probed,” he said.

Further, he contended that the ED had filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in the money laundering case and shared evidence with the CBI regarding which further interrogation was required.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, said the documents filed in the top court by the ED had no relevance to the current case before the CBI court.

Sibal also said CBI had no details of the $5 million involved in this case. “There has been 26 hours of questioning. Still, nothing asked on all these issues,” he said.

Former Union Finance minister P Chidambaram arrives at the CBI court at the Rouse Avenue in New Delhi. (Express photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

Refuting Sibal’s claim, the CBI counsel said Letters Rogatory (LRs) had been sent to five countries and the investigators were trying to link the transactions of the accused related to the case. “There is prima facie evidence to link the accused with $5 million. We are awaiting a response on LRs from the five countries,” Mehta told the court.

LRs are a formal request from a court to a foreign court for certain judicial assistance. Present in court was Chidambaram’s wife Nalini and son Karti.

Probing alleged charges of corruption in the case, the CBI arrested Chidambaram last week amid high drama — its personnel scaled the boundary wall of his New Delhi home to reach him — after he addressed the press at the Congress headquarters and headed home. The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in FIPB clearance to INX Media in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as Finance Minister. Thereafter, the ED too opened a probe into alleged money laundering in the case.

Setback for Chidambaram in Supreme Court

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court extended till Tuesday the protection from arrest given to Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate. A bench of justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna will resume hearing tomorrow noon.

During the pre-lunch session, Sibal said that fair trial and fair investigation were part of Article 21 and the court must protect the fundamental right of liberty of Chidambaram.

Sibal, counsel for Chidamabaram, told the bench that his reputation is being “destroyed” on a daily basis by the probe agencies in the cases. “The moment you arrest someone, the public perception is that he is guilty. It destroys a man. My reputation is being destroyed on a daily basis by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) and I have no remedy to protect myself,” PTI quoted Sibal as saying.

He informed the case that the ED case is that FIPB approval was granted to INX media in 2007-08 for Rs 4.62 crore but the money which came was Rs 305 crore for “downstream investment” into an entity called ‘INX News’.

Sibal said the allegation is that Chidambaram, who was the then finance minister, signed the approval which was given by FIPB comprising of six secretaries of the central government, PTI reported.

“P Chidambaram is sought to be vicariously involved in the INX Media money laundering case as he is the father of Karti Chidambaram. No case is made out against him,” PTI quoted Sibal as saying.

The counsel for Chidambaram said the ED claimed that shell companies were set up and ‘Benami’ properties acquired in several countries ranging from Argentina to Sri Lanka from the money of P Chidambaram.

“They had examined me thrice after the registration of case in 2017 and they have once questioned me for 26 hours. During this time, they never put any questions to me and what they asked was do you have a bank account? Do you have a twitter account? The court should summon the transcript to satisfy itself whether I was evasive or not during the questioning,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a setback to the former finance minister, the Supreme Court refused to entertain his petition challenging Delhi High Court’s dismissal of his anticipatory bail plea in the corruption case lodged by the CBI.

The bench said since Chidambaram had been arrested and was already in the CBI custody, his appeal in the case had become infructuous. However, the bench said Chidambaram was at liberty to seek a remedy in accordance with the law.

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