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August 22, 2019

INX Media case: Chidambaram sent to CBI custody till August 26


New Delhi, Aug 22: A special anti-corruption court on Thursday sent former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram to CBI custody till August 26 in the INX Media corruption case.
In a 10-page order, Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar conceded CBI's plea for custodial interrogation of Chidambaram, observing that considering all facts and circumstances of the case, police remand is justified.

The court, however, allowed family members and lawyers to meet the Congress leader for 30 minutes every day and that a medical examination should be done every 48 hours.

"I have considered the rival submissions made by the learned Solicitor General as well as learned counsels for the accused regarding grant of five days police custody of the accused. The allegations made against the accused are serious in nature and there cannot be a dispute with the fact that a detailed and in-depth investigation is required in the present case," the order said.

"The allegations of payment being made to the accused in the year 2007-08 and 2008-09 are specific and categorical. The trail of this money if so paid is to be ascertained. No doubt it is a case to a large extent based on documentary evidence but those documents need to be traced and their value and their worth for the purpose of the investigation, in this case, is to be ascertained," it added. 

The court said the enormity of money allegedly involved in this case and the persons who are accused necessitate an in-depth investigation.

"It was submitted that the investigation agency did not call the accused for investigation after June 6, 2018, but in my view that cannot be a ground to deny the investigating agency and opportunity to conduct an effective investigation now," the order said.

It said the investigation needs to be brought to a logical end and for that purpose, the custodial interrogation is sometimes found useful and fruitful.

The Congress leader was taken to the court on Thursday afternoon after he was arrested by the CBI from his residence in New Delhi late on Wednesday.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who argued for the CBI, had moved an application seeking 5-day custody of the Congress leader.

Mehta argued that custodial interrogation of the Congress leader was required as the former Finance Minister was "evasive" and "non-cooperative" in the investigation.

He said that the case, which is a classic example of money laundering, is in the pre-charge sheet stage.

Earlier, the court had reserved its orders after arguments were made by Chidambaram's counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Mehta.
Sibal said this "is the case which has nothing to do with evidence but with something else".

Chidambaram rejected the CBI charge that he was not cooperating and told the court that he had told the CBI that he has no overseas bank account while his son Karti has an account abroad.

"Please look at the questions and answers. There are no questions which I have not answered. Please read the transcript. They asked if I have a bank account abroad, I said no. They asked if my son has an account abroad, I said yes," Chidambaram said.

During the proceedings when Chidambaram said he wanted to speak, Mehta objected to his plea saying he is being represented here by two senior advocates.

Singhvi said there is a Delhi High Court judgment that allows the accused to make a representation on his behalf.

Opposing the CBI's plea for a five-day remand, Chidambaram's counsel told the court that he had cooperated with the investigating agency and has never skipped interrogation.

"Last night, the CBI said that they wanted to interrogate Chidambaram. They did not start the interrogation till 12 noon (today) and asked him only 12 questions. By now they should know what questions to ask. The questions had nothing to do with Chidambaram," Sibal told the CBI judge.

Sibal argued that the accused in this case Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram was granted regular bail by the Delhi High Court on March 2018 while the other accused, Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, were on default bail.

"Investigation (is) complete as draft charge-sheet is ready," he said adding that six secretaries were involved in the process of giving Foreign Investment Promotion Board approval in the INX Media case but none has been arrested.

"This is a case of documentary evidence. He (Chidambaram) has never skipped interrogation," he argued.

Referring to the Delhi High Court judgment rejecting the anticipatory bail of Chidambaram, Sibal argued, "If a judge has taken seven months to deliver the judgment, then is that the protective umbrella Chidambaram got? We are aggrieved."

Chidambaram's other counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the CBI's entire case is based on Indrani Mukherjea's evidence and a case diary.

"Non-cooperation is if the probe agency calls me five times and I don't go. Non-cooperation is not giving the answer they like to hear. They called Chidambaram once and he went. Where is non-cooperation?" he said.

The order citing arguments of the CBI's lawyers said that Chidambaram was evasive to the question put to him after his arrest and did not cooperate with the investigation. 

They said the former minister did not respond to various documents which were shown during the probe and there were documents and material which had not been shown to the accused.

They also said that he was given protection by High Court through its order of May 31, 2018 "of which he has taken advantage of by being evasive" in the investigation.

Mehta argued that the accused has to be interrogated for the trail of money and submitted that during the interrogation on June 6, 2018 documents were required from the accused but he failed to produce them.

On Wednesday, the former minister failed to get relief from the Supreme Court over the CBI and the ED's pursuit of him as the matter was not heard by the court despite repeated efforts of his lawyers.

The CBI and the ED had filed caveats in the Supreme Court over Chidambaram's plea seeking protection from arrest in the INX Media case.

The Congress leader's lawyers had moved the apex court against Tuesday's Delhi High Court order dismissing his anticipatory bail plea regarding cases filed by the CBI and the ED related to the alleged INX Media scam. The Delhi High Court had in its order said that the grant of bail in cases like this will send a wrong message to the society.

INX Media case: Chidambaram sent to CBI custody till August 26


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