The Supreme Court on Friday barred the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from arresting former Finance Minister P Chidambaram till Monday, when it will next hear the case. On August 26, the apex court will also hear Chidambaram’s plea against a lower court order remanding him to the custody of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the case related to alleged discrepancies in granting Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approvals to INX Media.
“Having heard the counsels for petitioner and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, we are of the view that the co-accused were granted bail in the ED case. Petitioner shall not be arrested till further hearing of the case. List the petition on August 26. The respondent (ED) shall file their reply and contentions by Monday,” the two Judge Bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna, said.
The former Union minister will, however, remain in the custody of CBI till Monday as the top court refused to intervene in the case as this stage. Both CBI and ED are probing separate aspects of the case, in which they have alleged that Chidambaram, and his son Karti Chidambaram accepted bribe and laundered money to grant the said FIPB approvals to INX Media.
The CBI had on Wednesday arrested the former finance minister from his residence here in the city and taken him to their headquarters. Later on Thursday, he was brought to the court of special CBI judge, who remanded Chidambaram to CBI custody till August 26.
The hearing in the apex on Friday also saw heated exchange between Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for ED, and Kapil Sibal, appearing for his party colleague P Chidambaram. Mehta, while opposing any kind of protection to Chidambaram, said that it was a case of “money laundering of a monumental magnitude”. Countering this claim, both Sibal and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, claimed that while cancelling Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail on August 20, the Delhi High Court had taken on record a note submitted by the ED. The said note, they claimed, as not even argued during the hearing of the case. Sibal also claimed that the judgment was copied from the said note.
“Word by word, comma for comma and full stop for full stop, even adjectives were copied as it is and para-wise noting was done. Now if the courts are going to copy paste from the note given by prosecution agencies then how will the people protect themselves,” Sibal told the SC.
In its submissions on Friday, the ED claimed that the former finance minister had asked the then promoters of INX Media group, Peter and Indrani Mukerjea to “take care of his son” Karti, when the husband-wife duo had met the former for FIPB approvals. It had during the investigation also found out that Chidambaram had “11 immovable properties and 17 bank accounts abroad”.
“CBI has recorded statement of Indrani Mukerjea, which will be tested in the trial. She (Indrani) and her husband had gone to Chidambaram for FIPB approval,” Mehta told the two Judge Bench. Seeking his custodial interrogation, the ED claimed that all the persons, in whose names the shell firms used to launder money were formed, had executed their will in the favour of Chidambaram’s granddaughter.
On the other hand, Singhvi, while assailing the high court judgement, said that the judge had made unwarranted observations, and made references to a case not even connected to the INX Media case. “The judge cannot refer to an unconnected case. This show that the mind is working to deny him (Chidambaram) bail,” Singhvi said.