Former Union Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram’s stay in CBI custody just got longer. The Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar on Monday granted the CBI four more days of custody that the agency had sought on the grounds that “it needed the time to unravel the larger conspiracy”.
Chidambaram’s counsel Kapil Sibal vehemently opposed the CBI plea saying it was against the pedestals of Right to Freedom under the Constitution. But the court granted the CBI request and asked that he be produced in court again on August 30. Chidambaram was produced before the special court on expiry of his four-day CBI custody in the INX Media corruption case. Earlier, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain his plea challenging the Delhi High Court order which had dismissed his anticipatory bail plea in the corruption case lodged by the CBI arising out of the case. He was brought before Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar by the CBI which sought extension of his custodial interrogation by five days.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General K N Natrajan argued for CBI and said there were sufficient grounds for extension of his custodial interrogation as he was interrogated from August 23-26 and was confronted with a co-accused.
As he was brought in, Chidambaram chose to stand in the box though he was offered a chair to sit and was initially seen talking to his Senior counsel Dayan Krishnana even as he waited for his senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi to arrive.
As the hearing started, the CBI asked for extension of five more days in custody.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the extension was being sought after interrogation that lasted for four days. He told the court that the respondent was confronted with one of the co-accused with a file containing email exchanging with respect to INX Media Scam is under taken. “So we need more time to unravel the larger conspiracy,” he said. He said certain information has been received from sister companies which needs to be put before the accused.
At this point, special judge Kumar said: “Show me what you have done in last four days.”
The SG said “please see the mails which we are need to interrogate”.
It will have to be read in Continuation but I have also put the tag for you to read”. , At this point, Chidambaram’s counsel Sibal objected and sought time to talk to Chidambaram.
Earlier, during nearly three hours of arguments before a bench of Justices Banumathi and Boppanna, in the apex court, Sibal denied ED allegations that Chidambaram will tamper with evidence or influence witnesses. “ED should have questioned Chidambaram on the allegations of tampering with evidence. Tampering can easily be proved in the court of law,” Sibal said. The ace lawyer also denied Chidambaram’s link to transactions as alleged by ED. Sibal told the court that chargesheet in the CBI case against Chidambaram is ready and approved. Sanction for his prosecution has also been obtained, he said. He argued that the ED should have first investigated, found out and then sought custody. It cannot be a one-way street in the process of investigation. “The question here is what process should be followed for custodial interrogation,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ED asked the judges to go through the documents during lunch. However, the judges said that since an objection has been raised, the court will consider the request later.
Arguing for Chidambaram, Sibal said, “I am not named in the complaint, there is no allegation against me in the complaint and yet now they say the entire money laundered and parked in shell companies belongs to me.”
Sibal also said that attempts to hand over documents in sealed cover to sensationalize the case should be deprecated. Sibal told the court that ED had made the allegation regarding the will even in its attachment order in 2018 and yet Chidambaram was never confronted.
He said that remand is sought when an accused is not responding. In this case, these are all documents, the petitioner cannot tell about bank accounts, these are documentary evidence, and that the custody of the person is not needed.
Sibal argued that the ED must tell court when the shell companies were discovered as it can’t be that they discovered it on August 21, after all they have been investigating for more than two years.
“What prevented ED from calling Chidambaram and confronting him with these accounts,” Sibal asked. Sibal told the court that even when in custody, during the 26 hours of examination, CBI did not ask Chidambaram even a single question related to the alleged transaction.
The only question asked was if he has an account with Couts Bank (royal British bank) and if he has a Twitter account, he said.
Sibal argued that in the last five days in the predicate offence these documents have not been put to him, and that everything is being said orally. Let them show one bank account in which Chidambaram’s name is there.
“The so called will in the favour of grand daughter has been in public since 2016 and he has never been confronted with it, never on those three dates,” he said.
In connection with the CBI case he was examined just once, in June 2018 and he was then never asked about the so called documents and still remand is given, he added.
Sibal said that fair investigation and fair trial are part of Article 21 (liberty).
“To handover documents in a sealed cover is entirely inconsistent to the fundamental right. Procedure followed to submit documents in court must pass the test of reasonableness.”
CBI case was filed in May 2017. ED filed it’s case three days after the CBI. Chidambaram was examined thrice. In December 19, 2018 Jan 1, 2019 and Jan 21, 2019 and was never summoned thereafter. If documents were available with them prior to December 2018, they should have put those documents to me and if after January 21, 2019 then they should have issued summons and confronted me with them,” Sibal told the court.
Read the order by Special CBI Court below:
—India Legal Bureau