New Delhi: CBI on Thursday produced Congress leader P Chidambaram, arrested in the INX Media case, before a Delhi court and sought his 5-day custodial interrogation saying there was a need to unearth a larger conspiracy.
He was produced before Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar where Chidambaram’s advocates opposed the CBI plea on the ground that all the other accused, including his son Karti, have already been granted bail in the case. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, argued that the first arrest in the case was of Bhaskar Raman, chartered accountant of Karti, who is presently out on bail.
Besides that, Peter and Indrani Mukherjea, also accused in the case, are out on default bail as they are in jail in connection with another matter, Sibal said. The senior advocate contended that grant of bail was a rule and the issue before the court was of personal liberty. He was countering the 5-day custodial interrogation of Chidambaram sought by CBI saying they need to unearth the larger conspiracy.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing CBI in the case, said during his arguments that Chidambaram entered into a criminal conspiracy with others in the scam. Chidambaram was arrested after issuance of non-bailable warrant against him. “He is not cooperating in the investigation,” Mehta said, adding that he has been evasive in replies and the grave offence was committed.
Mehta said it is a serious and monumental case of money laundering. He also said Chidambaram’s custodial interrogation was necessary to unearth the “quid pro quo and larger conspiracy” and he is required to be confronted with documents.
Opposing CBI’s arguments, Sibal contended that what the agency said to be not taken as “gospel truth”. He said that Chidambaram was asked 12 questions and he had already answered six of them previously. Investigators don’t know what to ask and they don’t have questions ready with them, Sibal told the court, adding that after his arrest on Wednesday night, Chidambaram was interrogated only on Thursday morning at 11 am.
During the arguments, Chidambaram said he has not slept for the last 24 hours. Sibal further argued that CBI could have written a letter to Chidambaram for producing the documents alleged to be in his possession and the agency cannot say he was evasive during the investigation. He also contended that what has been stated in the CBI case diary was not the truth and cannot be considered as evidence.
Mehta, during his arguments, placed the Delhi High Court’s judgement dismissing Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea and also referred to the observations made in it. He said charge sheet has not been filed in the case yet and the case is at pre-charge sheet stage, therefore, “we need a material which Chidambaram is holding”. “Effective investigation is possible only in custodial interrogation,” he argued. Mehta contended that serious, active and informed role of the accused is made out and the money trail is made out and has to be probed. Chidambaram’s custodial interrogation required to get an answer of certain questions for effective probe, he said.
Soon after entering the courtroom, 73-year-old Chidambaram was seen having a discussion with his party leaders and senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Vivek Tankha. Chidambaram’s family members, including his wife Nalini and son Karti, are also in the courtroom along with other senior advocates including Dayan Krishnan. Heavy security arrangement has been done outside the courtroom. He was arrested late on Wednesday night from his Jor Bagh residence.
The CBI had registered an FIR on 15 May 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as the finance minister. Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2018.