INX media case: On CBI’s ‘evasive to questioning’ charge, P Chidambaram’s firm reply in court
In the Delhi court where he was produced by the Central Bureau of Investigation, former finance minister P Chidambaram had two of his party’s colleagues, Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi, to argue his case. When they finished their sharp rebuttal to the CBI, Chidambaram, who is also a noted lawyer, delivered the final push.
Chidambaram sought to take down the CBI, which had arrested him last night from his house after scaling the complex boundary wall, telling the CBI judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar to requisition the transcript of his questioning by the agency sleuths on June 6 last year. “There is no question that was not answered by me,” Chidambaram told the judge amid protests by the government’s senior-most law officer Tushar Mehta.
The transcript, Chidambaram said, would also show that the allegation that Indrani Mukerjea, the co-founder of INX Media, had paid $ 5 million for government clearance was never put to him when he was questioned last year. The former minister said he was asked if he or his son had bank accounts abroad. Chidambaram said he had confirmed that his son had a foreign bank account and given the details.
Solicitor General Mehta, who sought five days custody, had complained to the judge as the hearing started that the former minister had been evasive and non-cooperative in his responses to the investigators. Chidambaram , the law officer said, was “not cooperating in the investigation and evasive to questioning,” adding that it is a serious and monumental case of money laundering. He also 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.
Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi, both senior lawyers, had rebutted this charge, pointing that non-cooperation is not when a person doesn’t answer the way the CBI wanted him to. “It is when you call 10 times and I say no 5 times,” Singhvi said. He stressed that Chidambaram had only been called only once in 14 months. “I’ve not been evasive, I’ve answered your questions,” he said.
Sibal, on the question of Chidambaram’s “evasiveness”, told the court that the former finance minister was open to questioning since 8 a.m. on Thursday but the CBI started the questioning only past 11 a.m. and had put only 12 questions to Chidambaram. Six of these, he added, had already been answered by the senior politician earlier.
He also argued that the Foreign Investment Promotion Board consists of six secretaries to the government, who recommended the file to Chidambaram as the then Finance Minister. He wondered why the CBI hadn’t questioned the officials who had recommended the foreign investment approvals but were going after the minister who had merely endorsed the recommendation.