After holding 11 hours of hearings spanning five days, the Supreme Court (SC) has reserved its order on former Union Minister P Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea in the INX money laundering case and extended his interim protection till September 5 when the court will pronounce its order.
Anticipatory bail pleas are generally not heard so extensively and the time taken by a bench of SC Justices A S Bopanna and R Banumathi indicates that the apex court is taking due diligence amid allegations of a political witch-hunt. The bench heard arguments of senior advocates and Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi for Chidambaram and Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta at length.
Mehta opposed Chidambaram being protected from the ED, and said the leader’s argument that he could not be arrested without the agency first presenting him evidence in the case was absurd and preposterous and if the witnesses and sources are exposed, the accused may tamper with the evidence and influence witnesses, this would adversely affect probes into money laundering cases against fugitives like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
He added that it was not possible to reveal information collected by the agency pertaining to Chidambaram’s foreign bank accounts and assets untill a charge sheet was filed in the case.
In retaliation to Mehta’s arguments, Sibal and Singhvi referred to the HC verdict and said the judge had blindly relied on a note handed over to him by the agency and did a copy-paste job to pass the order.
The SC bench has directed the ED to file documents on the case and said it would decide whether to go through it or not. It also posted Chidambaram’s plea against the trial court order that remanded him to CBI custody.
Chidambaram’s CBI custody ends on Friday and it remains to be seen if the agency seeks an extension and what the trial court’s response will be. As police custody is of 14 days and Friday is the eighth day, the CBI can seek another six days. However, if the court does not agree, Chidambaram could be released on Friday, August 30.