New Delhi: The week was quite tumultuous for former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram.
On Monday, after a high-pitch legal drama, the Supreme Court refused him interim protection, asked him to seek interim bail from the trial court and ordered that he be not sent to Tihar. The apex court also extended his CBI custody till Thursday.
Today (Thursday), a trial court judge put an end to all by ordering that Chidambaram be sent to Tihar jail.
Chidambaram’s lawyers had begged against any adverse order before the Supreme Court on Monday in the INX Media case, registered by the Central Bureau of investigation (CBI).
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Chidambaram’s lawyers argued in different courts to protect him from being sent to Tihar jail.
On Thursday morning, the apex court declined anticipatory bail to Chidambaram in the matter being probed by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED), and later the Congress leader withdrew the petition against the CBI custody.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Chidambaram pleaded before an apex court Bench, headed by Justice R Banumathi, “I am begging of you. Please don’t do this. Protect me till you hear this case. He shouldn’t be sent to Tihar”. He pleaded this citing his client’s age of 74.
During the hearing, a high-decibel argument broke out between the legal teams of Chidambaram and the CBI.
The court was hearing Chidambaram’s plea challenging non-bailable warrant (NBW) and remand orders of the trial court in the INX Media case. Sibal had pleaded not to make his plea against NBW and custody, infructuous.
Chidambaram’s lawyers argued hard and cited several legal citation. Sibal didn’t refrain from expressing his fear that the trial court judge might not hold back from sending Chidambaram to Tihar jail. “Put him under house arrest or give an interim bail”, Sibal pleaded.
The apex court didn’t accede to his house arrest plea. Sibal then pressed for extension of the interim protection for three days. The court queried, “Why should you skip the jurisdiction of the trial court and the high court, and move the Supreme Court.”
Additional Solicitor General K.M. Natarajan, appearing for the CBI, opposed this line of argument. “This application is not maintainable, this procedure is not known to the law, and it will set a wrong precedent”, Natarajan submitted.
Chidambaram’s lawyers urged the judge to think over again the after effects of her adverse order (to send him to Tihar jail). Sibal said the investigating agencies couldn’t humiliate people in this manner.
The lawyers were arguing at extremely high pitch, and Justice Banumathi didn’t seem to be comfortable with that. In fact, she was interrupted several times by Chidambaram’s legal team while pronouncing the order.
India’s former finance minister Chidambaram and his son get anticipatory bail
Allowing anticipatory bails to former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram, Special CBI Judge O.P. Saini said they couldn’t commit the same crimes as they no more held a position in the government.
“There is no possibility of the accused committing any similar crime again as they are not holding any official position in the government at present,” the court said in the Aircel Maxis case.
The court also observed the evidence related to the commission of crime by them was documentary in nature and thus could not be tampered with by the accused. “The witnesses are also from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the Ministry of Finance and banks and as such there is no possibility of them being threatened or influenced by any of the accused,” the court said.
During previous hearing, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K.M. Natraj had submitted, “The documents at large, the material collected during the probe, without any second look show being the Finance Minister he granted approval beyond his limit, benefited a few and received kick-backs.”
“The applicants committed serious economic offences, which are threat to the national economy and white collar crimes. The offence have been committed systematically with the cognisance of a larger conspiracy against the public and national interest.”
He also said such offences should be dealt with seriousness as they related to larger conspiracy relating to the transactions abroad. The Letters Rogatory (LR) had been sent to different countries to seek information, he added.
The case relates to the alleged irregularities in grant of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval in the Aircel-Maxis deal. The approval was allegedly granted in 2006 when P. Chidambaram was the Union Finance Minister.
According to the rules and foreign direct investment (FDI) policy, Chidambaram was only empowered to give approval to the proposals involving foreign investment up to Rs 6 billion.