ED seeks custodial interrogation in SC, Chidambaram says his liberty can’t be curtailed
New Delhi, Aug. 29 (PTI): ED told the Supreme Court Thursday that custodial interrogation of P Chidambaram is needed in the INX Media money laundering case as he is a man with “resources, intelligence and wherewithal” even as the former finance minister asserted that his right to liberty cannot be curtailed by arresting him without any valid reason.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) told a bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna that money laundering is an offence against the “society and nation” since it impacts the economy and it is the duty of the probe agency to unravel the entire conspiracy.
Chidambaram’s counsel said liberty is not a “one-way traffic” and if ED has the power to arrest him, then he also has his fundamental right of liberty under the Constitution.
The bench reserved order for September 5 on Chidambaram’s plea challenging the Delhi High Court’s August 20 verdict denying him anticipatory bail plea in the INX Media money laundering case.
While opposing Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that considering his position, it would be “impossible” to interrogate him if he is under the “protective umbrella” of bail.
He said if arguments of Chidambaram’s counsel that court cannot look into the material collected in the probe without accused being confronted with it is accepted, then it would lead to “devastating results” in other cases.
“I have materials to show that concealment, use of proceeds of crime and laundering of money continued after 2009 and even till date,” he said, adding that “interrogation will be a mere ritual if accused is under the protective umbrella of bail”.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, dared the ED to show even one document, property or foreign bank accounts linked directly or indirectly to Chidambaram.
“Liberty is not a one-way traffic. If they have right to arrest me, then I also have my fundamental rights. It is not a procedure of law that a probe agency gives its conclusion to a judge and the judge records his finding in his order. Can the procedure of law be destroyed in this fashion,” Sibal said.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, who also appeared for Chidambaram, said documents which the ED wants to place before the court for its perusal could have been put to Chidambaram during his questioning in the case.
While urging to court to look into the materials collected during the probe, Mehta said the ED has nothing to hide and there would not be an iota of doubt that materials are cogent to arrest Chidambaram.
Referring to the INX Media money laundering case, he said, “All these persons (accused) are equal in terms of resources, intelligence and wherewithal”.
“We (ED) are probing cases of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, AgustaWestland scam, Air India, Zakir Naik, Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin, Shabir Ahmad Shah and others case which includes cross-border terror fundings,” he said, adding that some of the accused in these cases are filing pleas in courts in India from places like Antigua without subjecting themselves to the courts of law here” he said.
Sibal argued that all the materials were available with ED but they did not put them to Chidambaram when he was questioned on December 19 last year, January 7 and 21 this year.
He said the high court had “copy pasted” the note, given to it by ED after arguments were over in the case there, on the basis of which Chidambaram’s plea was rejected.
CBI had lodged an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of INR 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister. Thereafter, ED lodged a money laundering case in 2017.