In Supreme Court, Centre’s back-handed compliment to P Chidambaram
The Enforcement Directorate, or ED, has received specific inputs from foreign countries about former finance minister P Chidambaram’s assets abroad, the government’s second most-senior law officer Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Mehta underscored that the ED had cogent reasons to arrest the veteran Congress leader for money laundering and countered the claim that the federal agency wanted to arrest Chidambaram to humiliate him, not to seek any answers.
“A ghost is created playing victim card,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court that is hearing Chidambaram request for pre-arrest bail by the ED in the INX Media case. He said the ED case against Chidambaram had nothing to do with a political witch hunt as alleged by the other side and offered to show the relevant documents to the court. The hearing will continue on Thursday.
The former minister was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation last week after the Delhi High Court rejected Chidambaram’s request for anticipatory bail in two cases being investigated by the CBI and the ED. Mehta confirmed that the ED wanted to arrest Chidambaram after his questioning by the CBI is complete.
Mehta also blocked the effort to punch holes in the ED’s money laundering charge against him. Chidambaram’s legal team had argued that the ED had slipped up because it invoked a provision in the money laundering law that came into effect only in 2009 though the allegations against Chidambaram related to the INX Media case of 2008.
Tushar Mehta countered that the argument, underscoring that the charge against Chidambaram wasn’t that he had laundered money a decade earlier.
“As on the date of registration of the complaint, laundering is going on and is a scheduled offence,” Mehta told a bench comprising justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna.
Mehta also refused to share any documents related to the investigation with Chidambaram’s team, underscoring that this would “upset the apple cart of investigation”.
The senior law officer stressed that money laundering, unlike many other offences, was never committed in the heat of the moment and was carried out by very intelligent people. “A stupid person can’t launder… (since it) requires layers and layers of concealment,” he said.