A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court on Thursday sent former finance minister P Chidambaram to Tihar jail in judicial custody till September 19 in a case related to alleged discrepancies in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approvals for INX Media. After hearing both the parties for nearly an hour, Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar directed that the copy of the order and the application be immediately sent to the superintendent of Tihar jail. Following the order, Chidambaram moved an application seeking that he be allowed to take with himself his prescribed medicines and his spectacles. Through another application, the senior Congress leader requested that he be allowed a separate cell with a cot and a bathroom with western-style toilet. He also sought that the ‘Z’ category security accorded to him be allowed to remain with him in the jail. All the applications were allowed by the CBI court, with an assurance from Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta that Chidambaram would be given adequate security. The former Union minister also moved another application seeking to surrender before the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which will be heard on September 12. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court rejected a plea moved by Chidambaram in which he had sought anticipatory bail from arrest by the ED in the same case.
A two-judge bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna, while rejecting his plea for anticipatory bail, said that allowing such an application in cases involving money laundering “at the stage of investigation may frustrate the investigating agency in interrogating the accused and in collecting the useful information and also the materials which might have been concealed”. “Grant of anticipatory bail, particularly in economic offences would definitely hamper the effective investigation. Having regard to the materials said to have been collected by the respondent — Enforcement Directorate — and considering the stage of the investigation, we are of the view that it is not a fit case to grant anticipatory bail,” the Bench said. Holding that economic offences court can peruse the case diary or materials collected during investigation by probe agencies, Justices Banumathi and Bopanna said that though they had received the documents in a sealed cover from the ED during the hearing of the case, they had not perused as it could have caused some prejudice to Chidambaram. “In the present case, though sealed cover was received by this court, we have consciously refrained from opening the sealed cover and perusing the documents. Lest, if we peruse the materials collected by the respondent and make some observations thereon, it might cause prejudice to the appellant and the other co-accused who are not before this court when they are to pursue the appropriate relief before various forum,” the apex court said.The court also rejected Chidambaram’s plea seeking directions that probe agencies should be asked to produce transcripts of the investigations they had done so far, to prove that he had not been evasive in his replies. The CBI had told the apex court that the former Union minister had been evasive in his replies and thus it was necessary to probe him in custody. “Since the interrogation of the accused and the questions put to the accused and the answers given by the accused are part of the investigation which is purely within the domain of the investigation officer, unless satisfied that the police officer has improperly and illegally exercised his investigating powers in breach of any statutory provision, the court cannot interfere,” the Bench said in its judgment. Even as Chidambaram received two setbacks from the lower CBI court and the apex court, another lower court here granted anticipatory bail to Chidambaram and his son Karti in another case related to alleged discrepancies in FIPB approvals for Aircel Maxis. In its order, the lower court judge held that since the probe agencies had not yet arrested former Union minister Dayanidhi Maran, who is alleged to have received bribe to the tune to Rs 749 crore, it would be unfair to deny anticipatory bail to the Chidambaram and Karti, as the alleged bribe received by them was only Rs 1.13 crore. The court ordered that should they be arrested in the Aircel Maxis case, they would be released on bail on furnishing bonds of Rs 100,000 each. The court also directed them not to leave the country without permission from it.