New Delhi: A special court on Thursday remanded former finance minister P Chidambaram to CBI custody till August 26 in connection with the agency’s probe into the INX Media case. The court said Chidambaram’s family could meet him for half an hour every day.
Sending Chidambaram to CBI custody, the court said, “It is a case based on documentary evidence and those documents need to be traced.” It said the allegations were serious in nature and needed an in-depth investigation.
Meanwhile, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna will hear Chidambaram’s petition challenging the Delhi High Court verdict denying him anticipatory bail in two cases. Both the cases, being pursued by CBI and ED, come up for hearing on Friday.
Earlier, the lawyers representing the Congress leader had led a sharp attack on the CBI for the way it had handled the investigation in INX media case. They also argued how all the other accused, including Chidambaram’s son Karti, had been granted bail. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that the agency could have written a letter to Chidambaram for producing documents alleged to be in his possession.”
Kapil Sibal pointed out that CBI could not claim that the former finance minister had not cooperated and had been evasive. Joining Sibal in the argument, AM Singhvi said that CBI could seek remand on the ground of evasive replies as it was not the law.
He said that the Congress leader was not a flight risk and that he couldn’t answer “according to what they want to hear”. He also pointed out that the CBI had based its entire case on the statement of Indrani Mukerjea who had now turned an approver.
Calling out the CBI for claiming that Chidambaram hadn’t been cooperating, Singhvi said, “Non-cooperation is if probe agency calls me five times and I don’t go, non-cooperation is not giving the answer they like to hear…They called P Chidambaram once, and he went. Where is non-cooperation.”
Speaking for himself, Chidambaram said, “Please look at the questions and answers, there are no questions which I have not answered, please read the transcript. They asked, if I have a bank account abroad, I said no, they asked if my son has an account abroad I said yes.”
Representing CBI, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said “right to interrogate is my duty, duty to the nation under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC ). We are merely seeking court’s permission to interrogate the accused further”. Arguing for remand, he argued that Karti had also undergone custodial interrogation in the case. “We are not extorting confession but we have the right to reach to the root of the case,” he said.
Reports said Indrani Mukerjea had told CBI that Chidambaram asked Peter Mukerjea to help Karti by sending overseas remittances in exchange for FIPB approval to INX Media. Both Chidambaram and his son have denied the allegations.
What is INX Media case:
The case relates to alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to media group INX Media, owned by the Mukherjeas, receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 307 crore during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
The Income Tax department handed over the case to the ED, which registered a case against INX Media for alleged Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations. Around six years later, while investigating a company associated with Karti, ED found documents linked to INX Media.
The documents indicated payments were made to Karti’s company by INX Media at the time the finance ministry granted it FIPB approval. The CBI then registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance, and ED lodged a money laundering case in 2018.