P Chidambaram bail plea: Live Updates from Rouse Avenue Court

P Chidambaram bail plea: Live Updates from Rouse Avenue Court

Bar & Bench

Pursuant to his arrest last night, former Union Minister P Chidambaram has approached the Special CBI Court at Rouse Avenue Court Complex in Delhi to get bail.

Chidambaram, who was denied anticipatory bail in the INX Media case by the Delhi High Court on Tuesday, had immediately moved the Supreme Court challenging this order. After several attempts to secure an urgent listing of the petition failed, Chidambaram’s petition was eventually expected to be taken up on Friday for hearing.

In the meanwhile, CBI officials arrested Chidambaram late last night. He has now approached the Special CBI Court for regular bail.

Live updates of the hearing follow:

  • Former Union Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram to be produced before Special CBI Court soon. Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Vivek Tankha, Nalini Chidambaram reach Court.
  • Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi also arrives.
  • CBI Prosecutor Padmini Singh takes her place.
  • Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan and Advocate Arshdeep Singh enter the court room. P Chidambaram to be produced any time now.
  • P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram also arrives
  • Chidambaram produced before court.
  • Solicitor General Tushar Mehta joins the CBI legal team. CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar arrives. Proceedings to begin.

Arguments of SG Tushar Mehta

  • SG Mehta for the prosecution seeks 5 days custody of P Chidambaram. Mehta apprises the Court of the INX Media case.
  • Non bailable warrant was issued by the Court pursuant to which P Chidambaram was arrested, Mehta.
  • Right to be evasive with respect to questions that only the accused can answer is non-cooperation, Mehta. He [Chidambaram] did not cooperate…Did not respond at all.
  • Custodial Interrogation is required to confront P Chidambaram with the relevant documents and other accused in the case to take the investigation further, Mehta.
  • He took advantage of the protective cover provided by the Delhi High Court, Mehta.
  • Mehta reads the Delhi High Court judgment authored by Justice Sunil Gaur, points out that the case was called a “classic case of Money Laundering'”
  • We are at pre-chargesheet case. He is not providing all the documents required for investigation… certain questions can be answered only when the accused is not under the protective umbrella, Mehta.
  • Serious, active and informed role of the accused is made out from the case diary…there is a money trail…that needs to be probed into, Mehta. Places the case diary before the CBI Judge.
  • Mehta reads a Supreme Court judgment on importance of custodial interrogation.
  • Mere appearance becomes a formality when the accused in under the protective umbrella. This is a serious case…of monumental magnitude, Mehta concludes as he urges the Court to grant 5 days custody of P Chidambaram.

Arguments of Kapil Sibal

  • Kapil Sibal begins, informs the Court that co-accused Karti Chidambaram was granted regular bail by Delhi HC, Chartered Accountant Bhaskaraman is also on anticipatory bail.
  • Other accused, Peter and Indrani Mukherjea are on default bail, Sibal.
  • Relying on the fact that a draft chargesheet in the case is ready, Sibal argues that the investigation in the case is already complete.
  • FIPB approval is given by 6 Secretaries of the Government of India. None of them have been arrested.
  • This is a case of documentary evidence. The Secretaries recommended the case to the Finance Minister and he approved. The FIR was filed after 10 years.
  • He was interrogated only on one day. You (prosecution) could have called him again. He has never skipped any interrogation.
  • When CBI says something has happened, it is not the gospel truth. It is a matter of personal liberty.
  • Please call for the record of his interrogation conducted on June 6, 2018 to see if he was evasive.
  • Last night, the CBI said that they wanted to interrogate him…They didn’t start the interrogation until 12 noon and asked him only 12 questions… By now they should know what questions to ask. The questions are not ready.
  • The questions had nothing to do with the accused, P Chidambaram.
  • The 12 questions that were asked are before you (Court)…he has already answered them. He did not give any evasive reply.
  • They could have interrogated him at any point of time after 2017 (when case was registered) or June 6, 2018 (when he was interrogated last).
  • They (prosecution) could have written a letter to me asking for the documents needed for investigation…why did they not do that?
  • When the judge reserved the judgment for seven months, is this the “protective umbrella” that I sought?
  • Grant of police remand is an exception, not a rule. A strong case must be made out by the prosecution.
  • I have serious objection with the manner in which the accused was dealt with…What is written in the case diary is not evidence in the case it only aids such inquiry or trial.
  • This is a case that has nothing to do with evidence but something else, Kapil Sibal concludes.

Arguments of Abhishek Manu Singhvi

  • Arrest is not automatic. It is an exception. The entire case is based on the case diary and a statement by Indrani Mukherjea.
  • P Chidambaram was called four months after Indrani’s statement was recorded in 2018…for 11-12 months P Chidambaram, was not called for interrogation.
  • To create a reason for custody now, they say that Indrani is now an approver, Singhvi. She turned approver in 2019 based on the same old statement given in 2018.
  • Singhvi argues the triple test for rejection of remand plea. CBI’s case is only based on the allegation of evasion.
  • Singhvi reads a Supreme Court judgment on custodial interrogation. Purpose of custodial interrogation is not confession, he says.
  • How can he (Prosecution) seek police remand on the basis of evasion?
  • Non-cooperation is not appearing for interrogation and not answering the questions in the manner the prosecution wants.
  • The FIPB approval was given by 6 Secretaries to the GOI, one of them later became the RBI Governor..He [Chidambaram] merely endorsed it.
  • You (Prosecution) have not made allegations of tampering of evidence or flight risk against P Chidambaram.
  • Grant of remand is an exception. Investigating agency must make out a strong case that without custody, further investigation would be impossible, Singhvi reads out a Supreme Court judgment.
  • There has not been any new development in the case. What is the point of police custody?
  • P Chidambaram says he wants to speak. Tushar Mehta objects. Singhvi cites a Delhi HC judgment that allows the accused to make a representation on his behalf.

Rejoinder arguments by Mehta

  • We are here dealing with an accused who has tremendous potential of not answering, not cooperating, Mehta. Karti was arrested and remanded to custody and released on regular bail, Mehta says.
  • Further investigation is going on. We filed an affidavit before the High Court stating that further investigation under Section 173 CrPc is going on. It is our statutory right. There is a need to interrogate.
  • Justifying calling P Chidambaram for interrogation only once, Mehta says, “We had a reasonable ground to come to the conclusion that we may not be able to reach the truth unless the protective umbrella is removed.”
  • The protection was removed only in August 2019 when the Delhi HC said that the gravity of the offence committed by the accused demanded denial of bail.
  • A responsible prosecution wouldn’t reveal the chronology of the questions to be asked. Whatever questions were asked, were recorded. I cannot be denied my right to interrogate…it is my duty to the nation.
  • We are considering remand…flight risk etc are not relevant…We are dealing with intelligent people…we would be failing as prosecution if we do not reach the root (of the matter).

Sibal says he does not want the questions to be made public, only wants to ascertain the genuineness of the questions.

P Chidambaram permitted to speak. “For June 6, 2018, please ask for the transcript…there is no question which has not been answered. The allegations of 5 million or whatever were never put to me. Only asked me if I have a foreign bank account.”

Order on remand reserved.

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