SC tells ED not to arrest Chidambaram till Aug 26

SC gives symbolic relief to Chidambaram

P Chidambaram in CBI custody. (PTI)

The Supreme Court on Friday granted former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram interim protection of arrest by the Enforcement Directorate till August 26.

Chidambaram is already under custodial remand of the CBI till then. The order comes as a symbolic breather for now to the senior Congress leader.

The top court restrained the Enforcement Directorate from arresting him even though Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pointed out a person can't be arrested by two agencies.

A bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna also decided to hear on Monday a challenge to the order passed by the Special Judge on Thursday sending Chidambaram to custody remand till August 26.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, arguing for Chidambaram, contended the petitioner's right to be heard under Article 21 of the Constitution, was frustrated when his petitions challenging the Delhi High Court's judgement of August 20 rejecting his anticipatory bail was not taken up by the top court.

"I can understand if I have not moved the court, I was not arrested then, my right can't be defeated," Sibal contended.

Mehta, for his part, said that the petition does not survive as the petitioner has already been arrested.

He said the matter can be heard on August 26.

"We can have both the matters in Monday, the bench said.

Chidambaram's counsel, however, preferred to argue their case against the possibility of arrest by the Enforcement Directorate.

Sibal and Singhvi read out the High Court's judgement, saying it is like final conviction.

No affidavit was filed, nothing was filed by the investigating agency but the high court relied upon some note and put it in the judgement, they said.

"Even adjective and words are the same. Courts are going through note and do and cut and paste job from note handed over," they said.

Singhvi pointed out one paragraph of the High Court judgement said abolish anticipatory bail plea for the economic offenders and high profile cases. He also pointed out the high court referred to the Aircel Maxis case, which had no connection to the INX media case.

Mehta, for his part, said, "As prosecutor, I will not criticise the judge but focus on points. I can't have luxury to enter rhetorics."

"The accused was Finance Minister at relevant point and granted FIPB clearance to INX media. CBI has statement of Indrani Mukerjea. She and her husband Peter went to meet the FM, who told them to care of his son," he said.

He cited the Delhi HC judgement to contend, the gravity of the offence showed in case diary, which got recorded.

"We can't share details. Evidence is in the form of digital documents, email exchanges. The FIPB clearance was under his signature, money was transacted through money laundering, we have to confront the accused," he said.

"Illgimate money was passed through shell companies having close links to the petitioner. Those companies were created abroad," he added.

"When I said this was a case of monumental magnitude, I said it with a sense of responsibility, he said, adding there 10 immovable properties abroad, 17 bank accounts in some other names dealing with his money in foreign countries. I don't wish to divulge beyond this. We found so far persons in whose names the shell companies were created. They have made a will in the name of grand daughter of the accused," Mehta said.

"We have to confront him with the evidence. People with certain mental faculty would never cooperate, if they remained under protective umbrella of anticipatory bail," he said.

"It is not your case, he has been evading," the bench asked Mehta, who asserted, "Yes it is my case, unless your conscience is satisfied, don't grant any protective umbrella."

He asked the court to go through some sealed envelopes but the court refused to take up those materials, saying those can be considered on Monday.

The court passed the order protecting Chidambaram from arrest even though Mehta said, "I earnestly urge, ED can't arrest him till Monday, if at all, it would be, it would be after Monday, there is no necessity of any protection till Monday".

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