INX media case: SC extends PC's protection till Sept 5

INX media case: SC extends PC's protection till Sept 5

Senior Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram. PTI file photo

The Supreme Court on Thursday extended the protection from arrest granted to former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram till September 5 in a money laundering case, related to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to the INX media group.

A bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna reserved its judgement on the anticipatory bail plea by the petitioner in the case being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate, which cited instances of cases against Sandesara group, Vijay Mallya, Méhul Choksi, Zakir Naik, Hafiz Saeed and others to contend that the materials collected against them cannot be disclosed before the arrest.

Chidambaram, who has been under custodial interrogation of the CBI since his arrest on August 21, challenged the validity of the Delhi High Court's judgement of August 20, dismissing his pre-arrest bail.

After hearing the arguments on four dates, the top court said it would pronounce its judgement on September 5. It further extended the protection of arrest, granted on August 23, till then.

The court also directed the ED, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to provide interrogation reports of Chidambaram and other materials with authenticated seal. 

His counsel, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi asked the court to go through the reports of his questioning that took place on December 19, 2018, January 7 and January 21, 2019. 

They asked the ED to disclose the questions faced by the petitioner and answers furnished by him, in their efforts to counter the charge by the agency that he had remained evasive and non-cooperative.

In rejoinder arguments, Sibal vehemently opposed the ED's move to furnish sealed cover envelop containing materials against the petitioners. “Sealed cover procedure cannot be countenanced to deny liberty of a man and to seal his fate in a court of law,” he said.

“The basis of his arrest demand is that he was evasive and non cooperative. It is their case that they put the materials, he remained evasive. Let the questions and answers be produced. Same kinds of allegations were made against his son Karti, they merrily did not arrest him for years on the ECIR registered on May 25, 2017,” Singhvi said.

The bench said it would decide whether to look into these materials or not.

Chidambaram has separately challenged the order by Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar for remanding him to the CBI till Friday.

Solicitor General Mehta, for his part, maintained there were sufficient materials and good enough reasons for the agency to make his arrest. He said the materials gathered against him cannot be disclosed at this stage.

“Chidambaram's plea to confront him with evidence before presenting it in court is preposterous. Confronting an accused who is free with evidence is open invitation to him to tamper,” he said.

“The moment, he is confronted, he can destroy the evidence and erase the money trail. It will defeat the purpose of investigation. It is not a question-answer sessions. We may have 10 things, we may reveal three things to the court and may not do the rest,” he said.

Making out the case for arrest of petitioner, he repeated, “It is only the people are with knowledge, resources, wherewithal” indulged in money laundering.