The Supreme Court on Thursday extended the interim protection from arrest granted to Karti Chidambaram by the Delhi High Court in the INX Media money-laundering case till March 26.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud also transferred to itself Karti’s petition as well as matters pending before the High Court relating to the power of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to arrest in money-laundering cases.
“The interim relief granted by the High Court… shall remain in force till the next date of hearing, i.e., 26.03.2018,” the bench ordered.
Appearing for the ED, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said Karti had challenged the power of the agency to arrest under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), but that there were various judgments on this by different High Courts.
The court said it would examine the question and also deal with the issue of whether High Courts can grant protection from arrest in a plea under Article 226 of the Constitution which deals with power of High Courts to issue writs and orders.
When the apex court was informed that the Delhi High Court has extended the interim protection till March 22, the court said it would transfer to itself the matters pending there and hear the arguments on them on March 26.
The bench said it was transferring the petition pending before the Delhi High Court to itself “as there are conflicting views of various High Courts”.
Karti, son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, is in jail in connection with the INX Media case probed by the CBI. The case pertains to alleged irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to INX Media for receiving funds from abroad when Karti’s father was Union finance minister.
After his arrest by the CBI, Karti approached the SC against action by the ED in the case. The apex court refused him relief but allowed him to approach the High Court. In his plea before the High Court, Karti sought striking down of the agency’s power of arrest under section 19 of the PMLA, and the probe being carried out by the agency.
On Thursday, Mehta said, “There are over a thousand cases where we (ED) have reached the stage of section 19 throughout the country… my difficulty is that even if the larger bench of the Delhi High Court gives a finding, it will not bind other courts. So this court has to give a finding on it, otherwise people will come to Delhi High Court only.”
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Karti, told the bench that they have filed a plea before the High Court and contended there was neither an FIR nor a complainant in the ED’s case.