PC fails to get reprieve from arrest from SC; dramatically appears at Cong HQ

PTI
Wednesday, 21 August 2019

"Until Friday and beyond, let's hope the lamp of liberty will shine bright and illuminate the whole country," he said, suggesting that the probe agencies should not arrest him until the apex court decides on his bail plea. 

New Delhi: Congress leader P Chidambaram facing arrest in the INX media case failed to get any immediate reprieve from the Supreme Court on Wednesday but made a dramatic appearance at the AICC headquarters here to profess his innocence, hours after the CBI and the ED issued a Look Out Circular to prevent him from leaving the country. 

With the apex court deciding to hear only on Friday Chidambaram's petition seeking a stay on the Delhi High Court order on Tuesday that dismissed his anticipatory bail plea, the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate(ED)--have got a free hand to arrest the former union home and finance minister. 

But Chidambaram's sudden appearance in public view on Wednesday night to address a news conference after the CBI and the ED said his whereabouts were not known set off speculation about his imminent arrest. He later reached his Jor Bagh residence and shortly afterwards a CBI team too followed him. 

Chidambaram, who is accused of money laundering and getting kickbacks in the INX media case, asked probe agencies to "respect" the law and wait till Friday when the Supreme Court hears his bail plea. 

He also put up a strong defence of himself and his family members, saying none of them has been accused of any offence by the probe agencies. 

"I am aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law," he said, rejecting allegations that he was evading investigating agencies. 

He said he was working with his lawyers through the last night, preparing his papers or his bail application. 

"Until Friday and beyond, let's hope the lamp of liberty will shine bright and illuminate the whole country," he said, suggesting that the probe agencies should not arrest him until the apex court decides on his bail plea. 

"I will respect law even if applied with an unequal hand by probe agencies," he said reading out from a written statement and flanked by several senior Congress leaders. He did not take any questions from journalists and left the venue after finishing his statement 

As the possible action against Chidambaram triggered a political slugfest between the Congress and the BJP, the troubles for the 73-year-old Congress leader mounted with official sources saying the ED's money laundering probe against him has been widened. 

The ED suspects the Congress leader's role in granting alleged illegal FIPB clearances to at least four more business deals, apart from INX Media and Aircel-Maxis, and receiving multi-crore kickbacks through multiple shell firms, the sources said 

The ED has also come across evidences where alleged illegal deposits of over Rs 300 crore were made in a single shell firm after purported kickbacks were received by Chidambaram and his son Karti in lieu of granting illegal Foreign Investment Promotion Board(FIPB) and Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) approvals, the sources claimed. 

The agency, sources said, hence has been seeking court clearance allowing custodial interrogation of the father-son duo given the nature of these complex transactions and kickback deals which have cross-border ramifications, as teams from the CBI and ED continued their efforts to locate the Congress leader. 

As a host of Congress leaders expressed solidarity with Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi accused the government of playing the politics of character assassination while Priyanka Gandhi alleged he is being "hunted down". 

The BJP rejected the Congress' charge of vendetta levelled against the Centre, saying the Union government did not interfere in the investigation and he must face consequences for his deeds. 
The CBI and the ED said separate Look Out Circular(LOC) against Chidambaram has been sent to all land, air and seaports and law enforcement agencies at these facilities to prevent any attempt by him to leave the country. 

A team of CBI officials went to Chidambaram's Jor Bagh residence in Delhi on Wednesday morning for the second time in two days looking for him but had to return as he was not present there, officials said. The agency also issued summons to him on Tuesday night to appear before it in 2 hours and pasted a notice on the gate of his home. 

Capping a day of hectic developments in the Supreme Court for a battery of top lawyer-turned politicians from the Congress fighting the case of their party colleague, Registrar (Judicial) informed them that Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has listed the matter for hearing on Friday. 

Chidambaram's petition was first mentioned by senior advocate Kapil Sibal in the morning before a bench, comprising Justices N V Ramana, M Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi, which sent it for being placed before the CJI for his consideration to accord it urgent hearing. 

When his lawyers did not receive any information on urgent listing, Sibal once again mentioned it before the same bench after it assembled post lunch. 

Sibal, flanked by other senior advocates Salman Khurshid, Vivek Tankha and Indira Jaising, told the bench that the investigating agencies have issued a look out notice against Chidambaram as if he is going to "run away". 

The top court said the defects in the petition had been removed "just now" and it "cannot be listed for hearing today itself". 

"Without listing of the petition, we cannot hear the matter," said the bench. 

"Sorry Mr Sibal. We cannot hear the matter," the bench said when he repeatedly asked for hearing the matter on Wednesday itself. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the plea of Chidambaram for hearing the matter on oral mentioning saying that the papers are not with him. 

Just as the bench assembled in the post-lunch session, Sibal said he was once again mentioning the matter for listing as he had not heard anything from the Registry about its listing. 

The bench told him that there were some defects in the petition and the Registry had informed about it. 

When Sibal said the defects have been cured, the bench called Registrar (judicial) Surya Pratap Singh and enquired about the defects. 

The Registrar said the defects have been cured "just now", and the petition will be placed before the CJI for allocating it before an appropriate bench. 

At this, Sibal said the matter cannot be listed today as the CJI was sitting in the Constitution bench and will not rise before 4 pm. 

While the senior advocate was repeatedly insisting the matter be hear, the bench told him, "We have already directed the matter to be placed before CJI". 

Sibal also said Chidambaram was ready to give an undertaking he will not run away but the bench did not consider the submission and concluded the brief hearing. 

In the morning, Mehta, appearing for the CBI and the ED, told the bench that it was a case of money laundering of "monumental magnitude". 

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