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The Delhi High Court today issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the bail plea filed by former Union Minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media case.
The matter was listed before a Single Judge Bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait, who allowed the CBI to file its status report in the INX Media case within seven days.
A second petition filed by P Chidambaram, challenging the CBI Court order which remanded him to judicial custody till September 19, was withdrawn after Justice Kait voiced his reservations against it.
“I have heard for the first time a petition like this”, the judge said.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, who was accompanied by Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Salman Khurshid, Vivek Tankha, Dayan Krishnan and N Hariharan, submitted that the alleged offences pertain to the years 2007-2008 and an FIR was registered 10 years later in May 2017.
He added that till date, Chidambaram was called for interrogation by the CBI only once in June 2018. He was then arrested more than a year later on August 21, 2019 from his home, Sibal said.
Sibal further stated that all the offences in the case had a maximum punishment of only seven years.
In response, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Court that Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the High Court with the observation that “this is a very strong case”.
“We are at pre-chargesheet case. Investigation has started”, Mehta said.
After a brief hearing, the Court issued notice to the CBI and allowed it to file a status report within seven days.
When Sibal requested the Court to hear the matter as soon as soon as possible in view of the fact that P Chidambaram’s judicial custody ends on September 19, Justice Kait exclaimed that he should have moved the bail plea sooner.
“When you can approach the Supreme Court on the same day, why not file the bail on the same day?”
Justice Kait also refused to entertain Sibal’s request to allow home cooked food for Chidambaram in Tihar jail.
The matter will be heard next on September 23.
In his bail plea filed through Advocate Arshdeep Singh, P Chidambaram has pleaded that the criminal case against him is borne out of a political vendetta and is mala fide.
Emphasizing on concerns of liberty, Chidambaram has submitted that mere apprehensions and presumptions by the CBI that the investigation would be hampered because of his status and position – without any material on record to show the same – could not have resulted in his judicial remand by an “unreasoned” and “non-speaking order”.
Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar had remanded Chidambaram to judicial custody on September 5 after the expiry of the maximum time period for police custody of an accused.
Chidambaram was arrested by the CBI in connection with the INX Media case on August 21, a day after the Delhi High Court denied his anticipatory bail plea.
He was thereafter sent to custody on August 22 in the case filed by the CBI. On August 26, the Supreme Court rejected the SLP challenging the order of the Delhi High Court denying him protection from arrest by the CBI, upon noting that the plea had become infructuous. However, the Bench granted him interim protection from arrest by the ED.
The same day, the Special CBI Court at Rouse Avenue Court Complex extended the CBI’s custody of P Chidambaram till August 30.
The custody was finally extended till September 5.
In the case being probed by the ED, the Supreme Court had rejected Chidambaram’s plea seeking anticipatory bail.