Delhi court allows ED to quiz Chidambaram till Oct 24

The Delhi court also allowed home-cooked food, western toilet, medicines to Chidambaram in ED custody. Photo/PTI

A Delhi court on Thursday sent former finance minister P Chidambaram for custodial interrogation by the ED till October 24 in the INX Media money laundering case "to facilitate proper investigation in the case to reach a logical end".

Special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar allowed the Enforcement Directorate to quiz Chidambaram for seven days.

The court permitted the request of Chidambaram that he be allowed a separate cell, home-cooked food, western toilet, medicines, spectacles and visit by his family members and lawyers half an hour daily after the ED did not oppose it.

The court also directed the ED to get him medically examined every 48 hours and to produce him on October 24.

Chidambaram was interrogated and arrested on Wednesday in Tihar.

In its order, the court noted that the case was being conducted consistently and some witnesses had been examined since September 6 and fresh material brought on record.

"Interrogation is the prerogative of the investigating officer. It is for him to decide when a person is to be arrested and when custodial interrogation will be required so that it proves fruitful. Courts give due regard to the discretion of IO about the manner in which he will conduct the investigation," it said.

The court noted that the IO never approached it for an examination of the accused while he was in the custody of the court in the CBI matter.

"The witnesses which have been examined must have been available earlier also as the case was registered long back on May 18, 2017. These witnesses could have been examined earlier but again I would say that IO is the best person to know when to examine and which witness," the judge said, adding "the interrogation in the present ECIR (ED's equivalent to an FIR) under Prevention of Money Laundering Act justify custodial interrogation".

The judge said, "Although I am of the view that ED could have utilized the time when accused was in judicial custody in the CBI matter to examine him with regard to the material available with ED but for this reason only, I am not inclined to deny an opportunity to ED to interrogate the accused in the present case to facilitate proper investigation in the case to reach a logical end."

"I am inclined to remand the accused to ED custody for seven days. Accordingly, the accused is remanded to the custody of ED till October 24," judge court said.

While seeking his 14-day custody, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for ED, told the court that from September 6, the agency examined 12 witnesses and the last one was examined on October 9, adding that the ED also collected some more material during that period.

He said that the accused himself had moved plea seeking to surrender in the case on September 5, which was then opposed by the probe agency on the ground that ED was investigating certain aspects of the money laundering which were first required to be probed for effective and meaningful custodial interrogation.

He further told the court that the Supreme Court also recognised in its September 5 order the need for custodial interrogation in the present case.

"The ED had summoned certain persons whose examination and elicitation of information from them was extremely crucial before the accused could be interrogated in the present case. Now since those persons have been examined and some additional material have been collected, the ED is seeking 14 days custody of accused," the SG said.

Special Public Prosecutor N K Matta, also appearing for ED, added that the investigation conducted so far in the money laundering case would be different and distinct having some more substantive material for the interrogation of the accused.

The plea was vehemently opposed by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, who said that when the accused had surrendered on September 5, the ED did not prefer to arrest him for the purpose of interrogation.

"The custody period (60-days since arrest) of the accused in CBI case is coming to an end, that's why to prolong his custody, the ED is now moving this application after his arrest on October 16," he said.

He told the court that evidence quoted by the ED was already in their possession in August. "Why did the ED not take him in custody since then," he asked.

He added that the accused had already answered all the questions related to alleged shell companies and bank accounts and his answer to those questions will be same as he had no knowledge about them.

"The accused has been in judicial custody in the CBI case since September 5 but the ED never approached the court to seek permission to interrogate him," Sibal said.

Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan and advocate Arshdeep Singh were also appearing for Chidambaram.

The court also extended the judicial custody of Chidambaram till October 24 in the INX Media corruption case lodged by the CBI.

The court had on Wednesday issued production warrant against him in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the ED. 

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