INX media case: Delhi High Court grants Chidambaram protection from arrest till August 7

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The Delhi High Court Wednesday granted interim protection to former Union minister P Chidambaram from arrest in the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) money-laundering case related to INX Media.

“Till next date of hearing, August 1, no arrest of the petitioner,” Justice A K Pathak said.

The court, however, directed the Congress leader to cooperate with the ED investigating the matter and not to leave the country without prior intimation of the court concerned. It said that Chidambaram shall be available as and when required by the agency.

Chidambaram has already obtained interim protection from arrest in the INX Media corruption case lodged by the CBI. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the ED, opposed the plea saying Mr. Chidambaram should have first approached the trial court for relief, instead of the High Court.

Mehta contended that the leader is indulging in form shopping by approaching different courts.  Senior Counsel Dayan Krishnan and advocates Pramod Kumar Dubey and Arshdeep Singh, appearing for Chidambaram, said although no summons have ever been served to the former Union finance minister by the ED in this case, he has an apprehension of arrest in view of the summons issued to him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is investigating the scheduled offence.

Chidambaram has protection from arrest in Aircel Maxis case lodged by both CBI and ED from the trial court till August 7. Senior Counsel Krishnan also submitted in HC that the ED has also opposed his client’s anticipatory bail plea in another case relating to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval in relation to the Aircel-Maxis case and “it cannot be ruled out that the ED may also summon him and/or illegally arrest him even without issuing summons”.

72-year-old Chidambaram apprehends arrest because of the circumstances under which the ED has arrested chartered accountant S Bhaskararaman in the case and the CBI had arrested his son Karti Chidambaram.

Chidambaram in his plea before the HC said that he does not have a copy of the FIR registered by the ED as it has not been provided to him till date.

He came to know about registration of the FIR from various summons received by his son from the ED, directing Karti to join the investigation, it said. The plea said that during the investigation of the ED’s case, which has been going on for over a year, no summon has been issued to Chidambaram till date, let alone any allegation of him evading the process of law or fleeing from the process of law or interfering with the investigation in any manner.

“There is not even a slightest whisper about his tampering with any evidence or hampering/impeding the process of investigation,” it said, while seeking the relief.

The CBI had earlier told the court that Chidambaram was needed for custodial interrogation in the INX Media case. The senior Congress leader’s role had come under the scanner of the investigating agencies in the Rs 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case involving Rs 305 crore.

It was during his tenure as the finance minister in the UPA-1 government that clearances from the FIPB were given to the two ventures, in which alleged irregularities have been found.

In the INX Media case, the CBI had registered an FIR on May 15 last year, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance to the media group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as the finance minister.

Thereafter, the ED had last year lodged the money-laundering case in this regard.

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