P Chidambaram’s plea runs into a technical glitch, told to approach CJI again
A concerted effort by former minister P Chidambaram’s lawyers to get relief from the Supreme Court ran into a technical glitch on Wednesday after court officials could not process petition. Chidambaram’s lawyers went twice to Justice NV Ramana but were told that only Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi would take up the case.
“Our client is not running away... We are only asking that matter be listed”, senior lawyer and Congress leader Kapil Sibal told Justice Ramana on Wednesday afternoon. Chidambaram’s protection from arrest in the INX Media case ended yesterday after the high court turned down his request for anticipatory bail.
This was the second occasion today that Sibal was in his court since Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was busy with the constitution bench hearing the Ayodhya title suit. In between, the registry had approached Chief Justice Gogoi for a direction. There, however, were no instructions because of some confusion if the paperwork relating to the caveat - a request to be heard before any orders are passed - filed by the CBI and ED was complete.
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Chidambaram’s lawyers insisted that they had complied with all the rules and hoped that court officials would approach Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi again, clarifying the factual position about the formalities.
In his special leave petition, Chidambaram had contested the high court’s decision to reject pre-arrest bail on grounds that there was no allegation that the petitioner is likely to flee justice, influence witnesses or tamper with the evidence.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed Chidambaram’s plea and said it is a case of “monumental magnitude”.
The INX Media case relates to irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the group for receiving ₹305 crore overseas funds. Chidambaram was the finance minister at that time.
Chidambaram had approached the Supreme Court seeking protection from arrest hours after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected in the Delhi high court. Chidambaram’s lawyers were told to go to the top court on Wednesday morning.
The Delhi high court while rejecting Chidambaram’s bail plea on Tuesday pointed out two factors. The court said Chidambaram has been “evasive” in his replies to the court and cited the “gravity” of the case.
On Tuesday night, the CBI issued a notice to Chidambaram asking him to appear before the investigation officer “within two hours”. A team of CBI officers visited his Jor Bagh residence but left after confirming that the former minister was not present there.
Both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are probing the case. The CBI registered a first information report in the case on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance; the ED lodged a money laundering case a year later.
Indrani Mukerjea and her husband Peter Mukherjea, who co-founded INX Media in 2007, had been charged with entering into a criminal conspiracy with Karti Chidambaram, P Chidambaram’s son. The Mukerjeas are accused of trying to get foreign investments and evade punitive measures for not having the necessary approvals from the FIPB.
Karti Chidambaram was arrested by CBI in February last year. He was released on bail in March. P Chidambaram was also questioned by the ED in January this year and on December 19 last year.