Delhi court rejects Chidambaram's ED surrender plea

Delhi court rejects Chidambaram's ED surrender plea

A Delhi court on Friday dismissed a plea by former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram for surrender in the money laundering case investigated by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the FIPB clearance to the INX media group.

Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar rejected his application for a direction to the investigation agency to take him into custody.

His plea came apparently as a bid to avoid the Tihar jail where he was at present lodged in judicial custody in the case registered by the CBI.

The judge pronounced his order this afternoon after reserving it on Thursday. The Enforcement Directorate had opposed his plea saying his arrest was necessary but it does not want it now. “Choosing the date of arrest is not a right of the accused. He would be arrested at an appropriate time,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had submitted even as senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, contended that the agency wanted to prolong his incarceration.

The case of money laundering was registered by the Enforcement Directorate in May 2017 in connection with the FIPB approval to the INX media group.

The senior Congress leader was arrested by the CBI on August 21. After being in the CBI's custodial interrogation, on September 5 he was sent to Tihar jail under judicial custody till September 19.

Answering to his application for surrender, Mehta said, “We would like to take him into custody for 15 days only when we feel it will be more conducive.” He said the arrest of Chidambaram was necessary but the investigating agency cannot be directed to arrest an accused on a particular date. Mehta further said that the agency would like to start the first day of the 15-day-custody once all six FIPB officials have been interrogated and examined.

Sibal, on his part, contended that the ED had come to Chidambaram's house to arrest him on August 20. He referred to the anticipatory bail order passed by the Supreme Court which recorded that the ED had called for his custodial interrogation. “There is no doubt about it that they wanted to arrest me at that point of time. Now they want to prolong my incarceration. This is a punitive measure to ensure that I continue to be in judicial custody for as long as it can be extended. This is mala fide and shows an intent to punish me and make me suffer. I want the investigation to be over,” Sibal said.

Terming statements by Solicitor General as an afterthought, the counsel said the accused always had a right to surrender. “I am not interfering in the manner of investigation. I am only saying that you investigate me, take me on remand,” Sibal said.

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