Chidambaram surfaces, claims moral high ground, arrested

Chidambaram said, “I was accused of running away from justice but rather, I was seeking justice.” He claimed to have been working with his lawyers on the documents last night

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New Delhi: The CBI has arrested former Union Home and Finance Minister P Chidambaram, an accused in the INX Media case. This followed the high drama of the accused politician holding an abrupt press conference on Wednesday at the Congress office.

Chidambaram was arrested from his residence at the Jor Bagh neighbourhood in the capital. He was subsequently taken to the CBI headquarters. A member of the Rajya Sabha, Chidambaram has been charged with the violation of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act in connection with INX Media, then headed by Peter Mukherjee. Chidambaram had allegedly asked Peter and Indrani Mukherjee to float a company with his son Karti Chidambaram as one of the directors through which FDI would flow into their media house. Chidambaram has denied the charge.

Since the Delhi High Court on Tuesday rejected his anticipatory bail plea, the CBI had been attempting to execute the arrest warrant issued against him. His battery of lawyers sought an urgent listing of the matter before the Supreme Court but failed, as the apex court was already burdened with too many cases needing more attention.

After reporting that the MP had been evading arrest, the CBI issued a lookout notice against him, making it near impossible for him to flee the country.

At the press conference, Chidambaram denied all the allegations made against him and his family. He said there was no FIR against him mentioning his offence. “No charge sheet was filed by the CBI or ED before the competent court and the FIR filed by CBI does not impute to me any offences,” he said.

Chidambaram complained before journalists that his liberty was at stake while “pathological liars” have been tarnishing his image. He would choose liberty if given a choice between life and liberty, he claimed.

The UPA-era minister said that the Delhi High Court had granted him interim protection last year vide orders of 31 May and 25 July 2018. On 25 January this year, the judgment was reserved. However, seven months later, the high court has dismissed his bail application. His lawyers appealed before the Supreme Court, he said, to list his matter urgently and secure him interim protection to no avail.

Chidambaram said, “I was accused of running away from justice but rather, I was seeking justice.” He claimed to have been working with his lawyers on the documents last night. He said that work was completed this morning, trying to explain the 27 hours for which the agencies could not trace him.

Chidambaram said that the apex court had listed the hearing of his matter for Friday. He claimed that, as a person who had “utmost respect for the law”, he had surfaced eventually. “In the name of freedom, I can only hope and pray that the investigating agencies will also respect the law,” he said.

The CBI followed him to his house where he went after the press conference at the Akbar Road address of the Congress office. The agency arrested him at his residence.

In the apex court earlier on 21 August, senior advocate Kapil Sibal pleaded twice before Justice Ramana, first in the morning and then at 2 PM, for an urgent hearing of Chidambaram’s petition.

Sibal said that the CBI had issued a lookout notice for Chidambaram and he could be arrested any time. Justice Ramana was not impressed. The judge said that proper procedure had not been followed for an urgent hearing. He said that an out-of-turn hearing could not be allowed.

Sirf News had mentioned in a previous report of today that the constitution bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Bobde were hearing the Ayodhya case, which kept them unavailable for Chidambaram’s case as on today. Therefore, Sibal approached Justice Ramana, the third-most senior judge. Justice Ramana said that only the CJI could pass orders regarding listing of the case. He forwarded the file to the office of the CJI.

The Delhi High Court had, while dismissing Chidambaram’s application for anticipatory bail on Tuesday, observed that it was a “classic case of money laundering”. The high court branded Chidambaram as the “kingpin and key conspirator” of the alleged corrupt deal involving INX Media.

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