Chidambaram remanded to CBI custody for four days - GulfToday

Chidambaram remanded to CBI custody for four days

Chidambaram

Former finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram (centre in white shirt with glasses) leaves a court in New Delhi on Thursday. Agence France-Presse

Former union minister and senior Congress leader Palaniappan Chidambaram will remain in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) custody until Monday, August 26. A special CBI court on Thursday conceded the agency’s demand to remand the Harward-educated leader to custody for interrogation in a multi-million corruption case over which he was arrested after high drama on Wednesday night.

The CBI asked for five days, but the judge allowed only four.

There was a need to unearth a larger conspiracy in what is known as the INX Media case, the CBI told the court. Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said the 73-year-old will be allowed to meet his family everyday and shall also be medically examined every 48 hours.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, argued that there is a “reasonable ground” for Chidambaram’s custody as he was “evasive” in his replies and “chose to remain silent during the interrogation by the agency.” “This is a serious case, involving intelligent people like him (Chidambaram),” he said adding that if the custody is not given, the prosecuting agency will fail in its duty to reach at the root of the conspiracy.

Chidambaram rejected the argument that he was evasive. In a special submission, he said he did not leave any question unanswered when he was summoned by the agency on June 6, 2018. As evidence, he asked the judge to see the transcript of question-answer session, which is a part of the case diary. “Please look at the questions and answers, there are no questions which I have not answered, please read the transcript,” he told the judge. “They asked if I have a bank account abroad, I said no, they asked if my son has an account abroad I said yes.” Chidambaram’s advocates, Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, opposed the CBI plea on the ground that all the other accused, including his son Karti, have already been granted bail in the case.

Chidambaram was interrogated for three hours on Thursday before he was presented in court. The agency sought him in remand for five days and alleged that he is not co-operating with the investigation. How could that be true, asked Kapil Sibal. The lawyer pointed out that the leader was called for questioning and he did appear.

“This case is completely based on a case diary and a statement of another accused,” Singhvi said.

The hearing revealed that Chidambaram was right in his argument that there is no charge-sheet against him yet. Himself a legal expert, Chidambaram had resisted the CBI bid to arrest him on Wednesday night and offered the argument that there is no charge sheet against him in any court of law.

On Thursday the CBI admitted to the court that they have only a case diary to present.

The CBI pressed for remand, using high-sounding words. They highlighted the “enormity and gravity” of the offence. “Serious offence of money laundering of monumental magnitude won’t be unearthed unless custodial interrogation is given,” the agency argued.

The CBI is expected to present evidence in the form of files from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) which Chidambaram had headed as finance minister. The allegation against him is that he allowed foreign investment into television company INX Media in 2007, when he was finance minister, without approval from the FIPB. The charge is that his son Karti Chidambaram received slush money for that favour.

INX co-founder Indrani Mukerjee is a key witness and approver.

The ex-minister was taken in on Wednesday night after the CBI sleuths scaled the gates of his house. However, they did not question him through the night though he was kept locked up at the CBI headquarters.

As he faced the media on Wednesday night as speculations emerged that he had gone missing, Chidambaram said: “I was aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law...On the contrary, I was engaged in the pursuit of justice. Between now and Friday I shall walk with a clear conscience and my head held high. I shall respect the law, even if it is applied with an unequal hand by investigating agencies.” His plea for bail will be taken up by the Supreme Court on Friday. He had obtained interim relief from arrest last year. On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court denied any further protection, referring to the “magnitude and enormity” of the charges and calling him the “kingpin.” That is when he rushed to the apex court.

Resmi Sivaram