SC seeks interrogation reports of Chidambaram

SC seeks interrogation reports of Chidambaram

 (Ravi Choudhary/ PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Enforcement Directorate to furnish records of interrogation of former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram in a money laundering case related to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to the INX media group in 2007.

The court decided to pronounce its order on September 5 on his plea for anticipatory bail. It also extended the protection from arrest granted to him on August 23, till then.

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 oppose his plea and to contend that the materials collected against them cannot be disclosed before their arrest.

After hearing the arguments on four dates, the top court directed the ED, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to provide interrogation reports of Chidambaram and other materials with authenticated seal.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, appearing for Chidambaram, asked the court to call for the reports of his questionings 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.

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.

He is to be produced before the special court after end of his custodial remand on Friday. At the end of the hearing, his counsel offered that the petitioner would prefer to remain in the CBI custody till Monday, the date fixed by the top court to hear his petition against the order to send him to custodial interrogation. Mehta, however, said such a plea should be made before the special court only.

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 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 an 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 the investigation. It is not a question-answer session. We may have 10 things, we may reveal three things to the court and may not do the rest,” he said.