INX Media Case: P Chidambaram Could Be Arrested By Enforcement Directorate After 55 Days In Custody
After spending 55 days in Central Bureau of Investigation and judicial custody in the INX Media corruption case, former finance minister P Chidambaram now faces the prospect of arrest by the Enforcement Directorate after a city court allowed his interrogation in Tihar jail in New Delhi in a related money laundering matter.
The order by Special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar on Tuesday comes just two days before the judicial custody of the 74-year-old Congress veteran was set to expire in the corruption case filed by the CBI.
Since his arrest on Aug. 21, Chidambaram has spent 55 days in custody, in the CBI as well as judicial, in nine spells.
Judge Kuhar allowed the ED to interrogate Chidambaram in Tihar jail on Wednesday, and arrest him, if necessary, in connection with the INX Media money laundering case.
The judge said three ED officials can interrogate Chidambaram after 8:30 a.m. and asked the jail superintendent to make necessary arrangements
The judge, who allowed the plea of the ED seeking permission to quiz Chidambaram, also rejected the Congress leader's plea seeking to recall the production warrant issued against him.
After the court passed the order, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Special Public Prosecutor Amit Mahajan, appearing for the ED, sought permission to question Chidambaram in some space available in the same Rouse Avenue court premises
The court, however, said, "it's not in the dignity of this person that you interrogate and arrest him here in public view."
Fighting another legal battle, Chidambaram on Tuesday sought bail from the Supreme Court in the corruption case, saying the CBI wants to keep him in custody to humiliate him. The court will hear on Wednesday the arguments of Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Chidambaram, told the bench headed by Justice R Banumathi that there were no allegations against the former finance minister or his family members having ever tried to approach or influence any witness in the case.
The lawyers also submitted that there are no allegations of financial loss or siphoning of funds
Judge Kuhar said the ED had moved the application seeking production warrant of the accused as he was in custody in the case being investigated by the CBI for the predicate offence.
"The DoE (Directorate of Enforcement) cannot interrogate accused without the permission of the court, he being in custody of this court. The application therefore sought for his production in the court for the purpose of arrest and remand," the court said.
"Therefore, in these circumstances, the DoE can seek the permission to interrogate the accused and then if the grounds specified in section 19 of the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) Act are made out, arrest the accused. Accordingly, the application for arrest of accused is being treated as an application for interrogation of accused is allowed accordingly," it added.
Section 19 of the PMLA, 2002 empowers the investigating agency/ED to arrest any person who is guilty of money laundering under the Act.
The court said the ED's application for remand is premature at this stage and it would be considered only if Chidambaram is arrested in the case by the agency.
It also dismissed the plea of Chidambaram for cancellation or recall of production warrant against him on Oct. 10.
"The plea cannot be allowed for two reasons -- Firstly, the production warrant were issued by this court being the jurisdiction court of the case in which he was in custody and secondly under the Criminal Procedure Code the courts exercising criminal jurisdiction have no power to recall any order passed by it. Thus the remedy against the Oct. 11 order available with the accused was to challenge it in superior court," the judge said.
The Supreme Court on Sept. 5 refused to grant Chidambaram pre-arrest bail in the money laundering case lodged by the ED, saying his custodial interrogation was necessary and that grant of anticipatory bail at this stage will hamper investigation. The court will hear on Wednesday the arguments of Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI.
As for the money laundering case, ED's special public prosecutor's NK Matta and Nitesh Rana had on Friday moved a plea seeking production warrant of the senior Congress leader.
The probe agency said it requires custodial interrogation of Chidambaram in the money laundering case.
Advocate Arshdeep, appearing for Chidambaram, had urged the court to recall its order by which Tihar authorities were directed to produce Chidambaram before it.