The CBI special court before which former Finance Minister P Chidambaram was produced for remand on Thursday following his arrest in the INX Media case saw heated arguments between the CBI and veteran Congress lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi with the Central agency seeking five more days of police custody and his lawyers stoutly opposing it.
Central Bureau of Investigation counsel and Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta sought five day custody on the ground that Chidambaram was the king pin and they had to unravel the deeper conspiracy.”We have to get to the bottom of the case” .
He said Chidambaram, when he was Finance Minister from 2004 to 2009, misused his office to get FIPB clearance for foreign investment to the tune of Rs 305 crore in INX Media owned by Peter and Indirani Mukherjee.
Mehta quoted the stringent observations made by Delhi High Court judge, while rejecting Chidambaram’s plea for pre-arrest bail that he was the kingpin and he could not claim immunity from arrest because he was an MP of a Minister.
Referring why Chidambaram was arrested only now in a case registered in May 2017, Mehta said it was done on the basis evidence of payoff alleged by Indirani Mukherjee, approver in the case of murder of her daughter Sheena Bora, in her confessional statement.
Indirani Mukherjee said she met Chidambaram to get the clearance and paid 10 lakh dollars to his son Kirti Chidambaram for getting foreign investment for the INX Media.
He also said the Delhi High Court had reserved orders on his anticipatory bail seven months ago. The agency moved in after the protective umbrella was no longer there as the high court rejected his plea on Wednesday and the Supreme Court posted his appeal for Friday which has now become infructuous after his arrest.
The CBI counsel said Chidambaram refused to cooperate with the investigators and was evasive in his replies to 12 questions repeatedly put to him after he was arrested.
Opposing the CBI plea, Chidambaram’s lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi it was a case that was registered in 2017 about clearance given by the FIPB in 2007 for investment in INX Media. Chidambaram was summoned only once before his arrest, Sibal said.
Denying that Chidambaram had been non-cooperative and had given evasive replies, they also said he had answered all the 12 questions repeatedly put him.”if I don’t give the reply you want, you cannot say I am not co-operating”, Singhvi said. They also said the case had been based on case diaries as charge-sheet was yet to be filed .
They also said the whole arrest had been made on the basis of confesionla statement of co-accused Indirani Mukherjee who has now turned approver. Such an evidence was inadmissible.
They also pointed out that Chidambaram’s son Karti and other co-accused as had already been granted bail. Sibal said the first arrest in the case was of Bhaskar Raman, chartered accountant of Karti, currently out on bail. Besides that, Peter and Indrani Mukherjea, also accused in the case, are also out on default bail as they are in jail in connection with another matter, he added.
They also said only Chidambaram had been arraigned and not five Finance Secretary level officials and members of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board.