[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ORMER Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday was sent to CBI custody till August 26 after he was produced before a Delhi Court.
Chidambaram, arrested in the INX Media case, was produced before Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar who ordered his custodial interrogation by the CBI. The probe agency had sought his 5-day custodial interrogation saying there is a need to unearth a larger conspiracy.
Chidambaram’s advocates opposed the CBI plea on the ground that all the other accused, including his son Karti, have already been granted bail in the case.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, argued that the first arrest in the case was of Bhaskar Raman, chartered accountant of Karti, who is presently out on bail.
Sibal also pointed out that Peter and Indrani Mukherjea, also accused in the case, are out on default bail as they are in jail in connection with another matter. He contended that it was a matter of personal liberty and grant of bail was a rule.
Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for CBI, told the court that the agency was not after extorting confession but it has the right to reach the root of the case.
Besides Sibal, senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi also appeared for Chidambaram and opposed CBI’s plea pointing out that the former Union Minister was not a flight risk.
Singhvi said that the entire CBI case was based on the statement of Indrani Mukherjea, who has turned approver in the case.
He said Chidambaram cannot answer what CBI wants to hear and added that the agency cannot seek remand on the ground of evasive replies.
He also argued that there was no allegation of tampering of evidence by CBI.
Singhvi further contended that police remand can only be granted in special circumstances and this was a case where there was no new development.
He said the agency was asking Chidambaram only old questions since his arrest on Wednesday night.
Countering the argument, Mehta said that certain facts about the case cannot be narrated in an open court. He also opposed the plea that Chidambaram be allowed to argue for himself, saying he has able lawyers representing him.
Mehta said that Chidambaram had entered into a criminal conspiracy with others in the scam. “He is not cooperating in the investigation,” Mehta said, adding that he has been evasive in replies. Mehta said it is a serious and monumental case of money laundering.
He said Chidambaram’s custodial interrogation was necessary to unearth the “quid pro quo and larger conspiracy” and he is required to be confronted with documents.
Opposing CBI’s arguments, Sibal said that Chidambaram was asked 12 questions and he had already answered six of them previously.
Investigators don’t know what to ask and they don’t have questions ready with them, Sibal told the court, adding that after his arrest on Wednesday night, Chidambaram was interrogated only on Thursday morning at 11 am.
During the arguments, Chidambaram, a seven-time member of the Lok Sabha and currently a Rajya Sabha member, said he has not slept for last 24 hours.
Sibal said that CBI could have written a letter to Chidambaram for producing the documents alleged to be in his possession. He argued that what has been stated in the CBI case diary was not the truth and cannot be considered as evidence.
Mehta, during his arguments, placed the Delhi High Court’s judgement dismissing Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea and also referred to the observations made in it.
He said charge sheet has not been filed in the case yet and the case is at pre-charge sheet stage, therefore, “we need material which Chidambaram is holding”.
Chidambaram’s family members, including his wife Nalini and son Karti, were also in the courtroom along with other senior advocates including Dayan Krishnan.
The court allowed his lawyers and family members to meet him for 30 minutes every day in CBI’s custody till August 26. He will be medically examined every 48 hours.
There was heavy security arrangement outside the courtroom.
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 in UPA-I government.