Updated: August 29, 2019 4:58:23 pm
Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on Congress leader P Chidambaram’s petition seeking protection from arrest by the Enforcement Directorate in an alleged money laundering case till September 5. The court also asked the ED to submit the documents in a sealed cover.
The former Union minister offered before the bench to remain in the custody of CBI till Monday. The apex court refused to comment on it after solicitor general Tushar Mehta said that extension of remand can only be done before the CBI court.
Supreme Court reserves its order on P Chidambaram’s plea for anticipatory bail on September 5. Asks ED to submit documents in sealed cover with seal authenticated. Court to decide whether orb or to see them. @IndianExpress
— Ananthakrishnan G (@axidentaljourno) August 29, 2019
During hearing in the case, ED called the offence of money laundering an act against “society and nation” and sought Chidambaram’s custodial interrogation in the INX media case under PMLA.
Mehta, appearing for ED, told the bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna that it cannot show the material collected during the probe at this stage as the evidence related to the money trail might be erased.
Mehta said there was no requirement of “exposing the materials, sources and evidence to the accused at the stage of pre-arrest bail” and investigation is the exclusive domain of the probe agency, PTI reported.
“Money laundering is an offence against the society and the nation and probe agency has a right and duty to unearth the entire conspiracy,” Mehta said.
Adding that the ED wanted to interrogate Chidambaram in custody and without the “protective umbrella” of anticipatory bail, Mehta said, “I have materials to show that laundering of money continued after 2009 and even today (in the INX Media case).”
Mehta claimed that the proposal made by Kapil Sibal about the court scrutinising whether an accused has been evasive after examining the questions and answers put to him based on evidence collected is absurd.
Listing out various sensitive and high profile cases being probed under the PMLA, Mehta said the SC decision would have wide ramifications on cases filed against Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Zakir Naik and other terror funding cases.
The probe agency had on Wednesday told the top court that the former minister was “playing victim card” and added that there was no “witch hunt” against him.
Referring to the arguments advanced by Chidambaram’s counsel on Tuesday that ED wanted to humiliate him by arresting him, Mehta had said, “A victim card is sought to be played. They are saying humiliation. It is not. It is prevention, prevention and prevention with capital P. I am serious about this”.
Referring to provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Mehta had said it provides that material collected during the probe is sent to adjudicating authority in a sealed cover.
To this, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Chidambaram, responded saying they never argued that they wanted access to the material collected by the ED but only said that the agency should put it to the accused and question him on it.
Chidambaram is presently in CBI custody till August 30 with regards to the corruption case linked to INX Media. CBI had lodged an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister. Thereafter, ED lodged a money laundering case.
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