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Court to decide on Chidambaram's ED custody today

October 15, 2019 00:20 IST

A Delhi court will on Tuesday pronounce order on the Enforcement Directorate's plea seeking to arrest and interrogate former finance minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case.

"I will pass orders on the applications tomorrow," special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said on Monday after hearing arguments from the lawyers appearing for the ED and the senior Congress leader.

Chidambaram, 74, is in judicial custody till October 17 in the INX Media corruption case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, told the court that there is a finding by the Supreme Court that custodial interrogation of Chidambaram is necessary.

 

Money laundering is a separate offence, Mehta said and moved an application for Chidambaram's arrest and remand.

The plea was vehemently opposed by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, who said that the CBI has already taken remand and ED has no ground since the offence is same.

"CBI has already sought his custody for investigating payment and companies abroad, which the ED wants to probe now... Yes, the Supreme Court said that they (ED) could arrest him. But they chose not to do so," Sibal said.

He said there was no separate transaction in the cases being probed by the two investigative agencies and the ED had no power to arrest because the maximum period for remand was over.

"There cannot be a remand after the 15 day period is over when the act under question here forms part of the same transaction which CBI is investigating.

"The FIR was registered by the CBI and then the ECIR was registered by ED based on that. As long as the transaction is same, the offences may be different, there cannot be an extension of remand beyond 15 days," he told the court.

Sibal urged the court to recall its order by which Tihar authorities were directed to produce Chidambaram before it.

"P Chidambaram could not have been brought to Court in this manner. It is contrary to law... No application could have been filed for his production before court," he said, adding that investigating agency could not use the aegis of court to seek Chidambaram's arrest.

"If you look at the ECIR and FIR, it is verbatim. This application for remand does not lie. He could not have been called from Tihar. Even the order passed by the CBI court while dismissing the earlier surrender application had recorded that the surrender could not be accepted since nothing was pending before the court.

"The production warrant was ex parte without issuing notice," the counsel said.

He added that 'if the predicate offence falls, money laundering will also fall. That's why it is the same transaction'.

Opposing Sibal's contention, the ED, also represented by Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj and special public prosecutor Amit Mahajan, said that both the cases by the CBI and the ED were different.

"Money laundering in an independent and stand alone offence. Money laundering not part of same transaction. It is a separate offence. The root may be the predicate offence," he said, adding that the CBI cannot go into proceeds of crime, only the ED can investigate that.

While urging court to allow ED to arrest Chidambaram, the probe agency's lawyers N K Matta and Nitesh Rana said, "We will press the remand application in half and hour after arrest."

After the arguments were concluded, lawyer Arshdeep Singh, also representing Chidambaram, said that 'in the event the order goes against us, it is our request to allow the same facilities to Chidambaram which were provided when he was arrested by CBI'.

The Supreme Court had on September 5 refused to grant Chidambaram pre-arrest bail in the money laundering case lodged by the ED, saying his custodial interrogation was necessary and that grant of anticipatory bail at this stage will hamper investigation.

The ED had on Friday moved a plea seeking production warrant of the senior Congress leader.

The probe agency said in its plea that it requires custodial interrogation of Chidambaram in the money laundering case related to INX Media.

SC to hear CBI's plea against HC findings on Chidambaram today

Meanwhile, the CBI on Monday challenged in the Supreme Court the findings of the Delhi high court that Chidambaram was not a flight risk and could not tamper with evidence.

The top court agreed to hear the CBI plea on Tuesday, along with the appeal filed by Chidambaram, challenging the high court's September 30 verdict denying him bail in the case.

Though the high court had denied bail to the senior Congress leader, it had observed that he was not a flight risk and could not tamper with evidence.

The matter was mentioned before a bench headed by Justice R Banumathi and advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the CBI, urged the bench for an urgent hearing on the plea.

Chidambaram's appeal challenging the high court order dismissing his bail plea is already listed for hearing before a bench of Justice Banumathi on Tuesday.

The high court had decided 74-year-old Chidambaram's bail petition on three aspects -- flight risk, tampering with evidence and influencing of witnesses.

On flight risk and tampering with evidence, the high court had ruled in favour of Chidambaram, while on the third count of influencing witnesses, the verdict had gone against the senior Congress leader.

The CBI has challenged the high court's findings on the aspects of flight risk and tampering with evidence.

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