In a setback for former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain his petition challenging Delhi high court's dismissal of his anticipatory bail plea in a corruption case lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the INX Media scam.
A bench comprising justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna said since Chidambaram has been arrested and is already in the CBI custody, his appeal in the case has become infructuous.
The bench said however that Chidambaram is at a liberty to seek remedy in accordance with the law.
Chidambaram, whose CBI custody is ending today, will be produced before a trial court where the agency can further seek his custody.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi said in their arguments that the CBI ensured Chidambaram's plea become infructuous by arresting him when he was seeking protection from arrest.
Immediately after the high court had dismissed his anticipatory bail plea in both the CBI and the ED cases on August 20, the senior Congress leader had moved the apex court in the post lunch session and his matter was listed for hearing on August 21, they said.
While attempts were being made to get his petition listed for hearing last Wednesday, an order was passed that the matter will be heard on August 23. Chidambaram was arrested on late evening of August 21.
Sibal narrated the sequence of events from August 20 to August 21. "The whole purpose of the CBI was to defeat the fundamental rights of my client, and his liberty guaranteed under the Constitution. He should have been heard but the matter was listed for hearing on Friday and not even Thursday".
However, the bench said on that ground Chidambaram's plea against the high court decision cannot be entertained.
"So far as the CBI case is concerned, we are not inclined to hear it. We dismiss the special leave petition (of Chidambaram) in CBI case," the bench said.
It said the senior Congress leader can challenge the dismissal of his anticipatory bail in the CBI case on different grounds.
The apex court bench is hearing issues relating to the money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the INX Media scam in which Chidambaram was granted protection from arrest till today.
Chidambaram was the Union minister for finance as also home during UPA I and UPA II government.
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 against him in 2017.
While arguing Chidambaram's plea in the ED case, Sibal said that fair trial and fair investigation are part of Article 21 and the court must protect the fundamental right of liberty of Chidambaram.
Sibal strongly objected to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's argument to place on record certain documents in sealed cover for the perusal of the bench.
He said Chidambaram was examined thrice by the ED on December 19, 2018, January 1, 2019 and January 21, 2019 but the questions related to the allegations levelled by the ED against him were not put to him.
Regarding the FIPB approval, Sibal said that the FIPB consists of six secretaries of the government of india and after both had given this approval, Chidambaram had only signed it being the then minister of finance.
He argued that the ED has alleged the use of shell companies in the matter but no such firm is directly or indirectly connected to Chidambaram.
He also said that Chidambaram was not named in the ED's FIR and no allegations were levelled against him in the FIR.
The arguments in the matter will continue in the post lunch session.