New Delhi, Aug 21: Amidst high drama, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram was on Wednesday night arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from his Jor Bagh residence here and was taken into custody by the probe agency in connection with the INX Media case.
The detention of the former Home Minister by a CBI team from his Jor Bagh residence came amidst a high voltage drama as large number of Congress supporters thronged the senior leader's residence even as the teams of the CBI and ED reached there. He was taken to the CBI headquarters by a team of the agency for questioning.
According to the CBI sources, the former Finance Minister has been arrested on an arrest warrant issued by a competent court. The former Finance Minister is being questioned tonight at the probe agency's headquarters and will be produced in CBI court tomorrow, the sources said. Meanwhile, the Congress party has termed the arrest of senior party leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram in the INX media case as ''witch-hunting and abuse of CBI and ED by Modi Government''.
The Congress said 'Democracy stands dead in the hands of the BJP'. ''The shameless witch-hunt & unheard of abuse of CBI/ED by Modi Govt 2.0 is playing on every TV screen in India. It’s a sham and shame that democracy stands dead in the hands of the BJP,''AICC media incharge Randeep Surjewala said. The statement came after the CBI arrested Mr Chidambaram from his residence for his alleged involvement in the INX media case.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Chidambaram addressed a press conference at the AICC headquarters, his first public appearance since the past 24 hours. Chidambaram, while addressing the press at AICC said, "I was aghast at reports that I was hiding from the law, but on the contrary, I was engaged in pursuit of justice. I am not running away. My lawyers, who are also friends and colleagues in the party, advised me to approach the Supreme Court. I did so yesterday evening and today. While my lawyers approaching the Supreme Court I and my team of leaders were busy preparing documents all through the night".
On the Supreme Court declining to give an urgent hearing on his anticipatory bail application, the former Minister said "I bow down to the orders of the Supreme Court and between now and Friday, I shall respect the law even if it’s applied unequally by investigating agencies". "Now I shall walk with a clear conscience and head held high. In the name of freedom, I can only hope and pray that investigative agencies will respect the law", Mr Chidambaram added.
However, the CBI team could not get to Mr Chidambaram while he was at the AICC and he left for his residence. The CBI officials who were initially not allowed to enter his residence were seen scaling walls while after some time the gates were opened for the ED and CBI teams.
In the beginning the team waited near the area where vehicles were parked and later the doors were opened from inside and some officials entered. As the officials were inside the residence and were communicating with Chidambaram and other Congress leaders, the number of Congress worker outside started to swell and additional police force had to be called in to disperse the protesters. Senior police officials also reached the spot and the area was surrounded and people were made to leave the passage from where the former minister had to be taken by the probe agency.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had earlier on Wednesday issued a Look Out Circular (LOC) against the senior Congress leader to prevent him from leaving the country, sources said. Airports across the country have been put on alert so that the senior Congress leader is not able evade the probe agency. The notice is for detaining and custodial interrogation of Mr Chidambaram, the sources said. The notice has been issued in connection with the INX Media money laundering case when he was Union Finance Minister.
Enforcement Directorate had also issued a LOC against Mr Chidambaram on Wednesday when the agency was not able to locate him. The central financial probe agency move came after the rejection of anticipatory bail plea of Mr Chidambaram by the Delhi High Court on Tuesday. ED is investigating the INX media case.
CBI and ED have filed a caveat in the apex court in the petition filed by Mr Chidambaram seeking protection from the arrest.
Chidambaram approached the Supreme Court against the Delhi High court order. However, the Supreme Court turned down an urgent hearing in the matter on Wednesday and set August 23 to hear P Chidambaram's petition seeking interim protection from arrest in the INX media case. Till 4pm on Wednesday, the apex court did not give any date for hearing the petition. A battery of lawyers appearing for the veteran leader of the Indian National Congress pleaded to the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing, but to no avail.
"Please give us an hearing. I will give in writing not to run away," pleaded Kapil Sibal, one of the counsels for Chidambaram. ''We have no other option rather than coming before you.'' Earlier in the day, Justice NV Ramana, who was heading the bench, told Mr Sibal,''We have done all that we can do. We asked the registry to list the matter. We have considered your request and directed the registry to list it. Without listing, we cannot hear the case,'' Justice Ramana said. He called the Registrar to find out the problem.
Registrar told the apex court that the defects have been cured just now and ''we are following the process.'' Justice Ramana said, usually these things are done by the evening. ''We have done what all we could do. You have to wait. Is your person running away?" Mr Sibal pleaded that his client was not running away and he can give an undertaking for it. Chidambaram has appealed against the order of the Delhi High Court, cancelling his anticipatory bail application in the INX media case in which he stands accused of money laundering and corruption.
Meanwhile, both CBI and ED had been trying to locate Mr Chidambaram since Tuesday when the Delhi High Court rejected his plea to extend protection against arrest by these two agencies. On Tuesday CBI and ED had reached Chidambaram's Delhi residence , however, the former minister was not found there. The CBI had pasted a notice at his residence and asked him to appear before it within two hours. The lookout notice against him was first issued in 2018 and he was directed not to leave the country without High Court's permission. UNI