ED opposes plea by Chidambaram to take him into custody

Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram. (PTI Photo)

The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday opposed a plea made by former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram before a Delhi court to issue a direction to take him into custodial interrogation, 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 submitted before Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar.

The court reserved its order for Friday as senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram contended that the agency wanted to prolong his incarceration.

Chidambaram filed an application to take him into custodial interrogation in a money laundering case 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, he was on September 5 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 submitted the agency would like to start the first day of the 15 days custody once all six FIPB officials have been interrogated and examined.

Sibal, for his part, contended 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 in 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 malafide 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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