A special court on Friday gave the Central Bureau of Investigation three more days for custodial interrogation of Karti Chidambaram in the INX Media corruption case, while the Delhi high court granted him relief, restraining the Enforcement Directorate from arresting him in a related money laundering case till March 20.
Though the beleaguered son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram got a breather in the money laundering case, special judge Sunil Rana remanded him in CBI custody for three days after the investigative agency claimed it had recovered some incriminating documents and CD from the Chennai office of Advantage Strategic Pvt Ltd., a company linked to Karti.
The trial court order came hours after a high court bench of Justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta granted Karti interim protection from arrest till March 20.
The high court asked the ED to satisfy it on the issue of its powers to arrest an accused under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on the next date of hearing.
The high court order failed to effectively bring any relief to Karti, who has been in CBI custody for the last nine days for questioning since his arrest from Chennai Airport on February 28.
The trial court asked the CBI to produce Karti before it on March 12, and the agency still has the liberty to seek his remand for three more days as the law provides for custodial interrogation of an accused for 15 days for certain offences.
The special judge posted the hearing on Karti's bail plea on March 15.
The outcome of Karti's bail plea assumes significance as the high court has said that if he is granted the relief by the special judge, ED will not take any coercive steps against him till March 20, when it will hear the matter.
Making it clear that the trial court shall pass orders without getting influenced by the high court's directions today, the bench said certain conditions be imposed on Karti like asking him to appear before the ED, as and when called by the investigating officer, and cooperate in the probe.
He shall also be directed not to leave the country and surrender his passport, it said.
Unperturbed with the high court's order, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is appearing for both the CBI and the ED in the case, told the trial court that Karti's custodial interrogation by the CBI was needed to confront him with the recovery of fresh incriminating documents.
He said Karti also needed to be confronted with his chartered accountant S Bhaskararaman, who was arrested by the ED and today remanded in judicial custody till March 22.
Mehta claimed Karti was maintaining "a false stand" that he was not connected to Advantage Strategic Pvt Ltd, but the new documents seized during the raid showed that it belonged to him or his family members.
"The CBI has been able to give sufficient ground and justified reason to show that it is possible to uphold the contention of the CBI that for the purpose of further and complete investigation further custody of the accused is necessary to ensure continuity and to speed up investigation to secure the evidence, which may be useful at the trial or to arrive at the truth," the special judge said.
Karti was arrested on his return from the United Kingdom in connection with the FIR lodged on May 15 last year alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds of about Rs 305 crore in 2007 when his father was the Union finance minister.
The CBI had initially alleged that Karti received Rs 10 lakh as bribe for the FIPB clearance. It, however, later revised the figure to 1 million USD (about Rs 6 crore 50 lakh at current exchange rate and Rs 4 crore 50 lakh in 2007).
The fresh evidence in the case, which triggered Karti's arrest, was based on the statement of Indrani Mukerjea, former Director of INX Media (P) Ltd, who recorded it under section 164 of CrPC before a magistrate on February 17.
P Chidambaram was present during the proceedings, both in the high court and the trial court, while his wife Nalini, also a senior advocate, was there in the trial court.
Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photo