Following a curious turn of events in the Supreme Court (SC), a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in the Capital extended former finance minister P Chidambaram’s custody with the agency for one day. The lower court said it would await the apex court’s orders in the case.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court had initially, while hearing Chidambaram’s plea against arrest by the CBI, granted him protection till Thursday. In its order, a two judge Bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna had directed the CBI court to take up the former union minister’s plea for interim bail on Monday.
The apex court, however, added a rider that if the lower court on Monday decided to reject his plea for interim bail, Chidambaram would not be sent to judicial custody. He would instead continue to remain in CBI custody till Thursday, when the apex court would take up the matter again.
“The concerned court shall consider the prayer for interim bail/extension of police custody of the petitioner and pass order today itself. In case request for prayer for interim bail/extension of police custody is rejected, the court concerned shall extend the interim police custody of the petitioner for three days in view of the pendency of this petition,” the two judge Bench of the apex court, said.
The court had then said that the case would be taken up on Thursday when it would pronounce its verdict on another matter related to Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail against arrest by Enforcement Directorate (ED). The order in the CBI case was passed by the apex court following pleadings by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for Chidambaram.
In his submissions to the court, Sibal told the SC that if the lower court decided to either not extend Chidambaram’s police remand or declined to hear the plea for interim bail, the petition challenging his arrest by CBI would be rendered infructuous. Chidambaram has also challenged in the SC the correctness of CBI’s “order of arrest” and the subsequent “remand order” by the lower CBI court.
Post lunch, when the court assembled again, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta appeared before the two judge bench and expressed difficulties in carrying out the apex court’s order. SG Mehta also told the court that CBI would press for only one day custody, so that the apex court could take up the matter again on Tuesday.
“Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General, has submitted that the fifteen days of remand of the petitioner expires tomorrow and therefore there may be jurisdictional difficulties in implementing the orders of this Court passed in the forenoon session and requests that the matter be listed tomorrow. In view of above, list the matter tomorrow,” the two-judge Bench said in its order.
Chidambaram had been arrested by the CBI on August 21 in a case related to alleged irregularities in granting Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approvals to INX Media. This was after a single judge Bench of Justice Sunil Gaur of the Delhi High court had rejected his anticipatory bail plea seeking relief from arrest by the CBI and the ED in the case. Justice Gaur had then also turned down the former finance minister’s plea for interim relief from arrest till he moved the court.
Though Chidambaram had moved the Supreme Court challenging the high court’s judgment that day itself, his case was listed after a couple of days before the same bench of Justices Banumathi and Bopanna. Chidambaram by then had already been arrested by the CBI and sent to five-day police custody, thereby rendering his plea for anticipatory bail infructuous.
However, in a similar case related to INX Media, where Chidambaram has challenged the high court’s judgement and sought relief from arrest by ED, the two-judge Bench had reserved its order and is scheduled to pronounce it on September 5.