SC dismisses Chidambaram bail plea, asks him to go back to trial court


(Online Desk)

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed plea of former Union Minister P Chidambaram seeking anticipatory bail in the INX Media case, saying that the senior Congress leader has been already arrested and the case has become infructuous.

At present, the apex court bench is hearing issues relating to the money laundering case lodged by the ED in connection with the above case.

The court also asked Chidambaram to move the trial court for regular bail, saying since he has been arrested, his appeal challenging Delhi High Court order denying anticipatory bail has become infructuous.

The senior Congress leader’s counsel Kapil Sibal told the apex court,” If the arrest had taken place and I had filed it later, the petition against Delhi High Court would be infructuous. I have a right under law to be heard.”

Sibal said this after Justice Banumathi said CBI matter became infructuous as Chidambaram had already been arrested in the INX Media Case.

The bench in return asked Sibal whether his petition for anticipatory bail had not become infructuous as he has been arrested now.

“We can’t convert your petition against the rejection of anticipatory bail into a petition for regular bail,” said Justice Bhanumathi.

Sibal hit back by saying, “we have not being heard and the plea was listed for Friday in SC and then I was arrested by CBI. We have even challenged  the trial court’s remand order.”

Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi also argued that CBI should not have acted like this when the matter was pending in SC.

During the hearing, Sibal also informed the court that the counter affidavit filed yesterday by ED was leaked to media. Government’s counsel opposed to it and said, “We haven’t leaked it.”

“Handing over of documents in a sealed envelope is a procedure unknown to the law and has no legitimacy,” Sibal told the apex court.

When ED wanted the case diaries to be read by the bench, Sibal opposed to it, by saying regular entries are required.

“Even the dairies can’t be used an evidence against any person,” he said.

“ED mentioned wild, properties, foreign bank accounts, but never submitted any details of these. It’s a clear case of political vendetta against Chidambaram and nothing else,” Sibal informed the apex court bench.

“Let ED provide details of one bank a/c or one asset in a foreign country to the court and I will withdraw the petition,” he added further.

“17 bank accounts of shell companies related to Chidambaram according to agencies, why were they never put to him. No such question has ever been put to him earlier and now also when he is their custody,” he said.

“Since the time Chidambaram is in CBI custody, they have only asked him do you have an account in Coutts Bank, in England?  Do you have a twitter account?”, Sibal said, claiming that prima facie there is no money trail as alleged.

“Delhi HC judgment has copied verbatim the note passed on by the agencies and they haven’t denied my cut-paste allegation in their affidavit before this court,” Sibal told the court.

Earlier on Monday, to the surprise of senior Congress leader’s legal team, the third petition which challenges the trial court order which granted CBI custody till Monday was not listed in the apex court.

On this, senior advocate Kapil Sibal approached the bench headed by Justice R Banumathi to inform her about the non-listing of the matter.

The Judge responded that she is aware of the things and has sent the file to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi for necessary approvals and the matter will be listed accordingly.

“The registry has some difficulty and we have to take orders from the Chief Justice,” the bench told Sibal.

The hearing on this case assumes significance as Chidambaram’s custody ends today and in case his petition doesn’t get listed then CBI will seek further remand of the former Finance Minister.

The special judge in the CBI court will also be bound by the Supreme Court’s orders passed in these cases and will have hence await the outcome of the proceedings there.

On Friday, the apex court had granted protection from arrest till Monday to Chidambaram in the money-laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate.

The court has sought replies from ED on Chidambaram’s plea and directed that all the three matters should be listed on Monday.

Chidambaram has contended that it is a violation of his fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, that his petition challenging the high court order was not heard by the apex court on July 20 and 21 and he was arrested on the August 21 night.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for ED, had said that lot of “hue and cry” and “political vendetta” is alleged by the petitioner (Chidambaram) and his party colleagues but “I am saying with a great sense of responsibility that this is a case of money laundering of a monumental magnitude”.

“CBI has recorded the statement of Indrani Mukherjea, which will be tested in the trial, that she and her husband Peter had gone to Chidambaram for FIPB approval and he (Chidambaram) had asked them to take care of his son,” Mehta had argued.

The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearances granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister.

Thereafter, the ED lodged a money-laundering case in 2017.

Chidambaram was arrested on August 21 night from his Jor Bagh residence by the CBI in the corruption case and was produced before a trial court on August 22, which remanded him to four-day CBI custody till August 26.