INX Media case: Delhi court reserves order on P Chidambaram's plea to surrender

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that Chidambaram, 73, is already in judicial custody in the CBI's corruption case and not in a position to tamper with the evidence

A Delhi court Thursday reserved for tomorrow its order on a plea by former finance minister P Chidambaram, lodged in Tihar jail in the INX Media corruption case, seeking to surrender in the money laundering case.

Special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar was informed by the Enforcement Directorate that Chidambaram's arrest in the INX Media money laundering case is necessary but it will be done at an appropriate time.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that Chidambaram, 73, is already in judicial custody in the CBI's corruption case and not in a position to tamper with the evidence.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, contended that the ED's submission is mala fide and intended to make him suffer.

He also told the court that Chidambaram can surrender whenever he wants to as it's his right.

Sibal said ED had come to Chidambaram's house to arrest him on August 20 and 21 but now they do not want to do so just to ensure that he remains in judicial custody.

The court was hearing Chidambaram's plea to surrender in ED's money laundering case related to INX Media scam.

During the hearing, Mehta argued that certain aspects are required to be probed before his custodial interrogation.

The agency requires to interrogate six persons before his custodial interrogation and it was investigating money laundering which reaches beyond this country, he said.

"He is not in a position to tamper with evidence since already in judicial custody. Will arrest him at appropriate time since thereafter only 15 days will be available with ED to interrogate him in custody," Mehta said and sought dismissal of Chidambaram's surrender application.

"As of now we don't want his custody. We will approach this court at an appropriate stage. We want to utilise the 15 day period at maximum," Mehta and advocate Nitesh Rana said.

He contended that the accused cannot guide the probe and the order to take him in custody right now will curtail the discretion of probe agency.

Prior to August 21, the 'reasons to believe' that he was required to be arrested existed and it exists even today, said Mehta, adding that after arresting Chidambaram they would like to confront him with the evidence which has been gathered.

"Grant of police custody at this stage will set a precedent when every accused will come before court and curtail probe agency's discretion," he said.

Opposing the ED's submissions, Sibal and advocate Arshdeep Singh claimed that the agency wanted to harass Chidambaram.

"What has changed since August 21 when they wanted to arrest me? Direct ED to take me in custody," he said.

"ED had come to my house for arrest on August 20 and 21... But now they do not want to arrest me. This is just to ensure that I remain in judicial custody. Even before the Supreme Court they said they wanted to arrest me. The stand today that they want to interrogate six others before they arrest me was not mentioned anywhere else," Sibal said.

On September 5, Chidambaram was remanded to 14-day judicial custody in the corruption case till September 19.

On the same day, the court had issued a notice to the ED on Chidambaram's plea seeking to surrender in the money laundering case lodged by the agency in which the Supreme Court had dismissed his plea against the August 20 order of the Delhi High Court denying him pre-arrest bail.

After his arrest by the CBI on August 21, he was sent to 15-day CBI custody, ordered by the special court in five spells.

The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) 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 Enforcement Directorate lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.

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