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Chidambaram has a bad day at court, CBI custody extended to Friday

Last updated on: August 26, 2019 22:04 IST

A special court on Monday sent former finance minister P Chidambaram to four more days of Central Bureau of Investigation custody till August 30 in the INX Media case after the probe agency said "certain evidence" had emerged and that the Congress leader's confrontation with a co-accused during interrogation was incomplete.

The CBI had sought extension of Chidambaram's custody by five days to confront him with certain e-mails and to unearth larger conspiracy in the corruption case in the INX Media scam.

Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said the CBI demand was "justified" for further interrogating the Congress leader in its custody.

 

Chidambaram, 73, was produced in the special court on the expiry of his four-day CBI custody which was granted to the agency on August 22, a day after he was arrested amid high drama from his Delhi residence.

His counsel Kapil Sibal opposed the CBI plea during the hearing, saying the agency was not disclosing "full facts" of the case to the court. "CBI's investigation is clouded. This method of seeking remand behind curtains is not fair."

After speaking to Chidambaram for two minutes, Sibal said in the previous remand application, there was a mention of USD 5 million and not a single document was put to him on this during four days of interrogation.

He said the case cannot be sensationalised, and not a single question with regard to shell companies as also bank accounts has been asked to Chidambaram.

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, extended till Tuesday the protection from arrest given to Chidambaram in the separate money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate.

A bench comprising justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna, however, refused to entertain his petition challenging the dismissal of anticipatory bail in a corruption case lodged by the CBI in the INX Media scam, saying since he has been arrested it has become infructuous.

Special Judge Kuhar allowed Chidambaram's family members and lawyers to meet him for half-an-hour daily during the CBI custody.

"Investigation is the prerogative of the investigating officer which he has to conduct within the framework of law... I am of the view that further police custody remand of accused P Chidambaram is justified and accordingly, the accused is remanded to further police custody till August 30," the judge said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General K N Nataraj, representing the CBI, said there was sufficient ground for extension of Chidambaram's custodial interrogation as he was confronted with a co-accused from August 23-26.

The confrontation with the co-accused is not complete, the prosecutors said, and placed before the court a file containing e-mail exchanges between the accused.

"We need five days of custody of Chidambaram as the confrontation with co-accused will continue to unearth larger conspiracy," Mehta contended without divulging the name of the co-accused.

He said investigation of the ED is going on simultaneously and the CBI has received information from it.

On being asked by the judge as to what the CBI has done in the last four days, the agency placed before the court relevant records.

The Solicitor General said it was necessary to confront Chidambaram with relevant e-mails and it was absolutely relevant to go into the roots of the issue.

"Certain documents and evidence have emerged which need to be confronted and probed," he argued.

He said the ED has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in the money laundering case and has shared evidence with the CBI regarding which further interrogation is required.

Sibal opposed the reference made by Mehta to the documents filed by the ED.

He claimed that questions regarding the e-mails were already asked and Chidambaram has answered them.

"There has been 26 hours of questioning. Still nothing asked on all these issues," he said, adding that he wants CBI to put correct facts before the court.

"At least the process of investigation should be fair," Sibal said, maintaining that the agency should show the documents relied by it in the court.

The Solicitor General said Letters Rogatory have been sent to five countries and the investigators are trying to link the transactions of the accused related with the case.

"There is prima facie evidence to link the accused with $5 million. We are awaiting response on LRs from the five countries," Mehta told the court.

LRs are a formal request from a court to a foreign court for certain judicial assistance.

Sibal said an accused cannot be put in custody till the investigators get the evidence and asked the agency to show basis of allegation of USD 5 million against Chidambaram.

During the hearing, the court questioned the manner in which the case diary was placed before it. Sibal also objected to the format of the case diary.

To this, the CBI said that the case diary was in loose pages as the format booklet was out of stock.

Chidambaram's wife Nalini and son Karti were also present in the court.

The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as the finance minister.

Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in 2017.

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