Chidambaram makes 2 unusual requests in Supreme Court, granted one
P Chidambaram’s legal team made a strong pitch in Supreme Court to place the leader under house arrest.Updated: Sep 02, 2019 16:53 IST
Facing the prospect of being sent to Tihar jail later in the evening, former finance minister P Chidambaram’s legal team on Monday made a strong pitch in the Supreme Court to place the veteran Congress leader under house arrest or let him stay in CBI custody. Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who was representing the 73-year-old politician, told a bench led by Justice R Banumathi that his petition against the CBI remand would become infructuous if the Delhi Court sends him to Tihar jail at the end of his CBI custody later in the day.
Sibal had started his arguments on Chidambaram’s petition against the CBI remand but before he could continue, the bench made it clear that he should approach the subordinate court first for regular bail. Sibal insisted on being heard, telling the top court that the former minister couldn’t be sent to Tihar jail at his age. He will turn 74 later this month.
Sibal, who is also a senior Congress leader, asked the court to give him bail till his petition against the CBI remand is heard or place him under house arrest. When Justice Banumathi stayed firm that the competent court dealing with the case should hear the bail plea, Sibal prayed for placing the former minister under house arrest.
“Justice has to be done at some level,” Sibal pleaded.
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Chidambaram was arrested on August 21 by the CBI after the Supreme Court didn’t accept his request to urgently hear his petition for anticipatory bail in the INX Media case. By the time the top court came around to taking it up, Chidambaram was already in custody and the petition was deemed infructuous.
At one point when Justice Banumathi indicated that the court would hear the petition on September 5 - when the bench rules on Chidambaram’s petition for anticipatory bail - Sibal made another pitch. “All I want is house arrest for the moment… And if on September 5, the (CBI) notice is found to be correct, then he can go back (to jail). No prejudice is being caused to anybody. If no relief is given, then the appeal will be infructuous,” he argued.
Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj opposed the request for house arrest, underscoring that there was no provision for a house arrest in law. Also, he questioned the assumption that Chidambaram would be sent to Tihar jail today asserting that the CBI could seek further custody.
Chidambaram’s team continued to stress his point, underlining that people shouldn’t be humiliated and the court could impose conditions on Chidambaram.
“If I am sent to Tihar, my petition will be infructuous,” Sibal said, requesting the judge to maintain status quo on Chidambaram if it could not give him any other relief.
In her order, Justice Banumathi noted that Chidambaram had been in police custody for 12 days and had not been sent to judicial custody. She initially ordered Chidambaram to approach the court concerned but later, on Sibal’s repeated requests, left the window of opportunity open for Chidambaram. The judge ruled that Chidambaram could seek the lower court for interim bail. If this petition was rejected, the court should extend his CBI custody for 3 days till the next date of hearing.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta later urged the court to revisit its order. “Today’s order effectively states that Chidambaram is to be released on bail.... We’ll seek custody until tomorrow,” he said, adding that the top court could take up Chidambaram’s petition tomorrow.
The INX Media case relates to alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the media group for receiving foreign investment to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007, when Chidambaram was finance minister. The CBI registered a first information report on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the manner the clearance had been awarded.