Veteran Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram was sent to Tihar jail on Thursday by a Delhi court, where he will spend 14 days in judicial custody in connection with the INX Media corruption case.
Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar sent him to judicial custody till September 19.
The court allowed him to carry his medicines to jail and directed that he be kept in a separate cell in Tihar prison as he was a protectee under Z-security.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured that there will be adequate security for Chidambaram in the jail.
The court also issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate on Chidambaram’s plea seeking to surrender in the money laundering case lodged by the agency in which the Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed his plea against the August 20 order of the Delhi High Court denying him pre-arrest bail.
Chidambaram, 73, was produced before a Delhi court on Thursday after the expiry of his 2-day CBI custody in the case.
His 15-day CBI custody, ordered by the special court in five spells, which started after his arrest on August 21 night, ends today.
His counsel opposed the CBI plea for judicial custody, which will take him to Tihar jail, and said that the veteran Congress leader was ready to go into the ED custody for interrogation in the money laundering case arising out of the scam in which the apex court on Thursday refused to grant him pre-arrest bail.
Chidambaram was brought to the special court hours after he withdrew his petition challenging the non-bailable warrant (NBW) issued against him following which he was sent to the CBI custody.
He was produced before Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar, who had on Tuesday sent him to the CBI custody till today after taking note of the Supreme Court’s order which had said that Chidambaram would be in the CBI custody till September 5.
The apex court on Thursday also decided on his appeal against the Delhi High Court’s August 20 order in the money laundering case lodged by ED and rejected his challenge to denial of anticipatory bail.
Hours after the apex court order, another special court granted Chidambaram and his son Karti anticipatory bail in the Aircel-Maxis cases.
In the INX matter, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta is appearing for the CBI while senior advocate Kapil Sibal is representing Chidambaram.
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as the finance minister.
Thereafter, the Enforcement Directorate lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.
Chidambaram, who was Union home minister as also finance minister during the UPA rule from 2004 to 2014, was arrested by the CBI on August 21 from his Jor Bagh residence.
During the proceedings, Mehta informed the judge about the outcome of the Supreme Court’s order in the ED case and also about the withdrawal of his petitions in the CBI case.
CBI told the court that Chidambaram can be sent to judicial custody as he was a powerful public person and should not be set free.
Sibal opposed the CBI saying there was no allegation that Chidambaram tried to influence or hamper probe.
He further said that Chidambaram was ready to go to the ED custody in the money laundering case related to INX Media in which the apex court on Thursday dismissed his plea challenging the High Court’s August 20 order.
Sibal said Chidambaram will surrender and ED will take him into custody.
“Why should I (Chidambaram) be sent to jail (Tihar)?” he said and pressed that ED should take him into its custody.
“There is nothing found against me. There is no charge sheet. They say I am powerful and influential. But they have no evidence. There is no evidence of tampering with evidence. Has a witness said anything like that?” Sibal argued.
The Solicitor General objected to Sibal’s submission saying he was arguing for bail.
However, Sibal said, “The reasons given in the application for judicial custody are non-existent. What do you need me for in judicial custody?”
When the Solicitor General sought a clarification as to for what relief Sibal was arguing, the latter said, “I (Chidambaram) am arguing for my release.”
Mehta said the apex court has accepted his arguments in the money laundering case lodged by the ED and there is a strong chance of tampering with evidence and witnesses and response is awaited on the Letters Rogatory sent to various countries.
The law officer alleged that Chidambaram was influencing banks in foreign countries and he was non-cooperative in the investigation and the banks may not cooperate if he influences them.
“This is a case of serious economic offence affecting the economy of the country,” he said, adding that Chidambaram is influential and has pervasive control over things and may influence witnesses.
Mehta referred to a statement of a witness and said this witness can be easily influenced by Chidambaram. He refused to name the witness in open court.
The law officer said the stage had not come to consider the release of Chidambaram.
Mehta said, “This is a case for judicial custody, till the bail of Chidambaram was decided. Judicial custody is a natural progression.”