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CBI arrests Chidambaram in INX Media case amid dramatic scenes

ANI 

Amidst dramatic scenes, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram was arrested in the INX Media case on Wednesday night after he failed to get relief from the Supreme Court over CBI and ED's pursuit of him as the matter was not heard by the court despite repeated efforts of his lawyers.

After his arrest by the CBI from his Jor Bagh his residence, Chidambaram, 73, was taken to headquarters of the probe agency. He is likely to be produced before a CBI court at the Rouse Avenue on Thursday.

Earlier, the former Finance Minister made a dramatic appearance at the Congress headquarters here and addressed a press conference in which he rejected the charges against him and his son in the INX Media case and said "lies" were being spread by "pathological liars."

He then left for his Jor Bagh residence from the Congress office and teams of the CBI and the ED reached soon after.

He was arrested in the glare of media after over an hour-long drama during which some officials scaled the gates to gain entry to his house. Supporters of the former Finance Minister raised slogans and tried to stop officials from taking him away. Some of them also blocked the road in protest.

Two of them climbed on the car in which Chidambaram was being taken and had to be brought down. An official took to scooter to move away from reporters chasing him for information. CBI and ED had issued a lookout circular against him.

After his arrest, Chidambaram's pre-arrest bail plea in the Supreme Court has become infructuous.

CBI sources said that Chidambaram was arrested on an arrest warrant issued by a competent court.

Earlier in the day, Chidambaram's Special Leave Petition (SLP) seeking a pre-arrest bail was not cleared by the Supreme Court registry as it had certain defects.

A bench headed by senior-most judge Justice N V Ramana referred the plea back to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

The CJI, however, had commenced hearing in the Ayodhya dispute case due to which Chidambaram's counsel Kapil Sibal was unable to mention the matter before him for urgent hearing.

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

Congress party rallied behind Chidambaram with party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi expressing their full support to him. DMK leader M K Stalin also came out in his support.

At the press conference, Chidambaram was flanked by senior party leaders Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, Salman Khurshid, Vivek Tankha and KC Venugopal.

The Congress message for the press conference did not say that Chidambaram will be present.

Rejecting the charges against him and his son Karti in the INX Media case, Chidambaram said FIR does not impute any wrongdoing by him and there was no chargesheet either by the CBI or ED before the competent authority.

Reading from a prepared statement, Chidambaram dismissed suggestions that he was hiding from the law.

Chidambaram said he will respect the law even if applied "with an unequal hand by the investigating agencies" and hoped the investigative agencies will also respect the law.

"In the name of freedom, I can only hope and pray that investigating agencies will also respect the law in the present circumstances and wait for the decision of SC on Friday," he said.

He said the whole of last night and today he was working with his lawyers and preparing the petition.

"In the last 24 hours, much has happened that has caused concern to some and confusion to many. My statement today is to dispel that concern. In the INX Media case, I have not been accused of any offence nor is anyone else including any member of my family accused of any offence," he said.

"In fact, there is no charge sheet filed by the CBI or the ED before the competent court. Moreover, the FIR recorded by the CBI does not impute to me any wrongdoing yet there is a widespread impression that grave offences have been committed and I and my son have committed that offence. Nothing can be further from the truth. These are lies spread by pathological liars," he said.

He said despite impatient pleas of his lawyers, the cases "were not listed for hearing today, neither they will be listed tomorrow but will be listed on Friday."

"I bow down to the orders of the Supreme Court. Between now and Friday I shall work with the clear conscious and my head held high. I shall respect the law even if it is applied with an unequal hand by the investigating agencies," he said.

The Congress leader, who is a Rajya Sabha MP, said he was aghast that he was accused of hiding from the law.

"On the contrary, I was seeking the protection of the law. I was accused of running away from justice. On the contrary, I was engaged in the pursuit of justice," he said.

"Some days ago when I spoke in Parliament, I had said that every judge in the country will uphold the liberty of the citizen. I had said that the collective conscience and the institutional memory of the court as a venerable institution will guide all judges of the country. As much as I believe in liberty, I also believe in the wisdom of our judges," he said.

"So until Friday and beyond, let us hope that the lamp of liberty will shine bright and illuminate the whole country," he said.

Chidambaram said when he was summoned by the CBI and then the Enforcement Directorate to appear for questioning, he sought interim protection against arrest and was granted interim protection by the high court.

"I have enjoyed it for the last 13 to 15 months. The matter was finally heard on January 25 and the judgment reserved. After seven months, the high court was pleased to dismiss my pre-arrest bail application. My lawyers advised me to move the Supreme Court. On my behalf, they did so yesterday evening and today. They appealed to Supreme Court to list it urgently and meanwhile grant me interim protection," he said.

"While senior counsel was moving the Supreme Court, I worked with my lawyers through the night last night to prepare the papers. Today throughout the day I was with my lawyers following the proceedings in the Supreme Court," he said.

Chidambaram said the most precious Article of the Constitution of India is Article 21 that guarantees life and liberty.

"If I was asked to choose between life and liberty, I should unhesitatingly choose liberty. Why are years up to 1947 called the years of freedom struggle because to win the freedom we must struggle, to preserve the freedom we must struggle," he said.

Rahul accused the Modi government of using the ED, CBI and "sections of a spineless media to character assassinate" Chidambaram and said he strongly condemns "this disgraceful misuse of power."

Priyanka Gandhi alleged that the Congress leader was "shamefully hunted down" and vowed to "stand by him and continue to fight for the truth".

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, however, dismissed the Congress allegations and said BJP had no involvement in the issue.

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.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the plea of Chidambaram and said this is a case of money laundering of monumental magnitude.

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.

Chidambaram, in his petition, said that he granted approval to INX Media's proposal in the "normal course of official business."

The Congress leader said that the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), which was constituted in order to promote foreign investment in the country, unanimously approved the proposal of INX Media for approval for FDI.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered an FIR alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to INX Media to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when Chidambaram was the Union Finance Minister.

Based on the FIR, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case against him.

Chidambaram's son Karti has also been named in the two cases. He was arrested on February 28, 2018, by the CBI and was later released on bail. The ED had attached properties belonging to him.

On July 4, a Delhi court had allowed Indrani Mukerjee, the former head of the INX Media, to turn an approver in the CBI case.

The CBI had on late Tuesday night put up a notice outside his residence to appear before them in two hours prompting his lawyer to request the investigation agency not to take any coercive action until the hearing of Chidambaram's plea in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, August 21 2019. 23:39 IST
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