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Friday 5 June 2020

Chidambaram lodged in Tihar to get no special treatment

Officials said the Congress-era minister could drink water from a Reverse Osmosis plant or purchase a packaged bottle from the canteen; he may access the prison's library and also watch television just like a normal Tihar Jail inmate

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New Delhi: Former Union Finance and Home Minister P Chidambaram, who was brought to Tihar prison Thursday evening, will get no special facilities, except a separate cell and a Western toilet as specified by the court, jail officials said. Like other inmates, he will have access to the prison’s library. He can watch television for a specified period.

After the mandatory medical check-up, Chidambaram was lodged in Jail No. 7, which usually houses those accused in Enforcement Directorate cases.

Chidambaram will be lodged in the cell from 9 PM to 6 AM. Breakfast will be served between 7 AM and 8 AM, the official added. Officials said he can either drink water from a Reverse Osmosis plant or purchase a packaged bottle from the canteen. “He may access the prison’s library and also watch television, just like a normal inmate,” the official informed the press.

Chidambaram “is being given a separate cell and can use the western toilet as specified by the court order”, a jail official said.

A prison official said that the food is usually served to the inmates between 7 and 8 PM but it is kept aside for those who arrive late due to court procedures. The usual dinner menu comprises rotis, dal, sabzi and rice.

Incidentally, Chidambaram’s son Karti was lodged in this very cell for 12 days in the same case last year.

Ratul Puri, a nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who is being probed by the ED in connection with the AgustaWestland and a bank fraud case, is lodged in this jail, too.

Chidambaram, who was also the home minister during UPA 2, was sent to 14-day judicial custody on Thursday in the INX Media corruption case.

The veteran Congress leader was brought to Asia’s largest prison from the Rouse Avenue Court amid high security. It took nearly 35 minutes for the jail authorities to bring Chidambaram to the prison from the court.

As the police van ferrying Chidambaram was being tailed by the media, jail authorities tried to hide his face with a document. He was taken inside the jail from Gate No. 4 of the prison. Later, his son Karti, along with lawyers, were seen outside the jail.

The court allowed him to carry his spectacles, prescribed medicines to the jail and directed that he be kept in a separate cell in the Tihar prison as he is a protectee under Z-security.

After questioning former finance minister P Chidambaram in custody, the CBI may file a charge sheet this month in the INX Media case related to Rs 305 crore of foreign investment clearance given to the company in alleged violation of norms, sources said on Thursday. The agency is looking to file a charge sheet in case this month. It may extend the investigation, they said.

About 11 entities may be charged in the first charge sheet in the case, the sources said without elaborating on the issue.

Congress stalwart Chidambaram was asked about 425 questions during 90 hours of interrogation sessions spread over 14 days, the sources said. The questioning hovered around Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance, mail exchanges and relations of Chidambaram’s son Karti with other accused, among others, they said.

The investigation included his face-to-face confrontation with former additional secretary in the finance ministry Sindhushree Khullar and director Prabodh Saxena, the sources said.

Last two days in the custody were a little relaxing for 73-year-old Chidambaram as hardly any questioning took place during that period, they said.

Chidambaram, a Rajya Sabha MP, was sent to the Tihar Jail in judicial custody on the request of the CBI after the expiry of 15-day custody with the agency.

The former finance minister was kept in the agency guest house in a ground floor suite, a treatment given to the accused whose cases are “sensitive”. He was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on August 21 in a dramatic raid at his house in full media glare with probe agency personnel even scaling the boundary walls of his posh bungalow in Jor Bagh area here to gain entry.

On 15 May 2017, the CBI had registered a case regarding alleged irregularities in granting FIPB clearances to INX Media, run by its directors Indrani and Peter Mukherjea in 2007, when Chidambaram was the finance minister.

Besides the Mukherjeas, the CBI has booked Karti, Chess Management Services and Advantage Strategic Consulting Ltd through its director Padma Vishwanathan. It alleged that the officials by virtue of influence exercised over them by Karti, not only ignored the serious illegality on the part of the INX Media but also deliberately showed undue favours to INX Group by abusing their official position and advised the company to file for fresh clearance.

The former finance minister was summoned only once last year for questioning in the case and he appeared for the questioning. Karti has been questioned a number of times by the agency.

INX Media had sought the FIPB clearances on 13 March 2007, for permission to issue, by way of preferential allotment, up to 14.98 equity shares to three non-resident entities – Dunearn, NSR PE and New Veron Pvt Equity Ltd.

The CBI has alleged that for the services rendered by Karti through his company Chess Management Services, consideration in the form of payment was received against invoice raised on INX Media by Advantage Strategic Consulting (P) Limited (ASCPL), according to an FIR.

The FIR filed on source information alleged that Karti was indirectly handling ASCPL. Invoices for approximately Rs 3.5 crore were also raised in favour of INX Group in the name of other companies in which Karti was having “substantial interests” directly or indirectly, the agency alleged in the FIR.

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