Granting partial relief to arrested Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram, the Supreme Court Monday directed the trial court, which has been hearing the INX Media case against him, to extend his CBI custody for three more days in case it rejects his plea for bail.This direction came after senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, pleaded that he should not be sent to Tihar jail. His CBI custody was ending Monday and if the trial court had sent him to judicial custody, he would have been moved to Tihar jail. The bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna said: “Having regard to the submission made at the Bar, the petitioner is permitted to move the concerned Court seeking appropriate relief including the prayer for interim bail/extension of police custody and other remedies if any available in accordance with law.
The concerned court shall consider the prayer for interim bail/extension of police custody of the petitioner and pass order today itself. In case request for prayer for interim bail/extension of police custody is rejected, the court concerned shall extend the interim police custody of the petitioner for three days in view of the pendency of this petition(s).”
Sibal told the bench that Chidambaram was willing to remain in CBI custody or under house arrest, if he was not granted interim bail Monday by the trial court, till the top court heard his plea challenging the “correctness of the “order of arrest” and the subsequent “remand order”.
But the matter didn’t end there. Shortly after the order, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta rushed to the Supreme Court and said “there may be jurisdictional difficulties in implementing the orders of this Court” and requested “that the matter be listed tomorrow”.
Allowing the request, the bench said the CBI “is at liberty to move the CBI Court to seek police custody of the petitioner till tomorrow”.
Seeking relief for Chidambaram, Sibal told the bench that the “non-bailable warrant against the latter was illegally issued. He should not go to Tihar today”.
“I am 74. Please protect me… If I am sent to Tihar, my plea will become infructuous… Why should you send me to Tihar in this fashion?” Sibal pleaded before the bench which initially did not appear inclined to grant his prayer.
“Please grant me interim bail,” he said.
The bench told him: “That’s for the competent court to decide”.
“Why should we step into the regular jurisdiction of the trial court and High Court,” asked Justice Banumathi.
Sibal said it was about Chidambaram’s remand. “They gave just two hours,” he said, referring to the CBI pasting notices outside the Congress leader’s house at night, and added “this is the basis of their non-bailable warrant”.
“How can that be justified. Under which provision of law?” asked Sibal. He said the CBI should file their counter to his petition. “I will go to Tihar. Please protect me.”
He said the court could even order house arrest for Chidambaram till it took up the matter.
Justice Banumathi again said that these were questions for the competent court to consider. Not willing to give up, Sibal said there was a recent order of the apex court setting aside a remand order.
The bench said it has fixed his plea for September 5 on which day the court will also pass orders on his plea against the High Court order denying him anticipatory bail in a money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate.
“Then let him be under house arrest. I am a 74-year-old,” Sibal said.
Appearing for CBI, Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj said it was for the competent court and not the accused to decide.
But Sibal continued, “If your lordships find the remand order illegal on September 5, then what? My plea would already have become infructuous.”.
The ASG said it would be setting a bad precedent. Sibal told him: “You are setting a bad precedent by giving just two hours notice.”
Justice Banumathi asked “why can’t you make the request to the trial court?” “Because it will reject it,” Sibal said.
The ASG objected, saying Sibal was casting aspersions on the trial court. “How can he say what the court will do?” asked Nataraj.
With Sibal unrelenting, the bench then pointed out to the ASG that the prosecution had on September 30 agreed that it will accede to Chidambaram’s plea to remain in CBI custody for three more days. The ASG replied that “it was only for till today”.