The court also allowed his family members and lawyers to meet him for half an hour every day.
New Delhi: Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram, who was arrested on Wednesday night over the INX Media corruption case, was remanded to CBI custody till Monday. Solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing in court on behalf of the CBI, said Mr Chidambaram had to be interrogated in custody as he was “not being cooperative and being evasive in his replies”.
“Considering the facts and circumstances, I am of the view that police custody is justified,” CBI special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said, remanding him to the agency’s custody till August 26. Allowed to make a brief submission, Mr Chidambaram said that he had answered all the questions earlier on June 6 last year, and the CBI was merely “repeating what they had asked”. He said he had “provided the details of all my bank accounts to the CBI”. His wife Nalini and son Karti were present in the packed courtroom.
During the four-day CBI custody, Mr Chidambaram will be medically examined regularly. The court also allowed his family members and lawyers to meet him for half an hour every day. Immediately after the order, the 73-year-old Mr Chidambaram was whisked away by the CBI team to the its headquarters. Mr Chidambaram was represented by two top Congress legal brains — Kapil Sibal and Abhishek “Manu” Singhvi, as well as by Vivek Tankha.
The arguments from both the defence and prosecution went on for nearly two hours. The CBI counsel said Mr Chidambaram’s “custodial interrogation” was needed to “unearth a larger conspiracy”. However, Mr Chidambaram’s defence team argued that all the other accused, including his son Karti, had already been granted bail in the case.
The CBI counsel made it clear the agency was in “no way extorting a confession” from Mr Chidambaram, but had the right to reach for the root of the case. “It is a serious case involving intelligent people and we will fail in our duty if we don’t get to the root of the case,” the solicitor-general said, and added even Karti had undergone custodial interrogation in the case. Mr Mehta described the former minister as a “highly intelligent individual”, who he said had the “potential to mislead”. He said at this juncture “certain facts about the case cannot be discussed in an open court”.
Mr Chidambaram was produced in the court amid tight security and senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for him, argued that the first arrest in the case was of Bhaskar Raman, chartered accountant of Karti, who is now on bail. It was further pointed out that Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, also accused in the case, are out on default bail and they were in jail “in connection with another matter”, Mr Sibal said. It was further argued that the officials who gave the FIPB approval were not arrested. He also contended that the grant of bail was a rule and the issue before the court was that of personal liberty.
Mr Singhvi said the entire CBI case was based on the statement of Indrani Mukerjea, who has turned approver in the case. He argued that Mr Chidambaram “cannot answer what the CBI wants to hear”. He said the CBI “cannot seek remand on the ground of evasive replies”, and that there was “no allegation of tampering of evidence”. The CBI counsel countered by saying that Mr Chidambaram had entered into a criminal conspiracy with others, and it was “a serious and monumental case of money-laundering”.
Mr Sibal argued by saying the CBI’s contention could not be taken as “gospel truth”. It was claimed that Mr Chidambaram was asked 12 questions, of which he had already answered six during the earlier course of interrogation. The court was told that on Wednesday night Mr Chidambaram urged the CBI officials to take him into custody on Thursday morning as he had “not slept for over 24 hours”.
Countering the defence argument that no chargesheet had yet been filed against Mr Chidambaram, the CBI counsel argued that “the case is at pre-chargesheet stage (and) the agency needed the material which Mr Chidambaram was holding”. It was claimed that his custodial interrogation was needed to “track the money trail”.