On Tuesday evening, the CBI and the ED had asked Chidambaram to present himself in front of their investigating officers within two hours. It was speculated that Chidambaram was running away from arrest. At a hurriedly-called press conference at the Congress headquarters at 8.15 pm, Chidambaram told the media that he was “aghast” that he was being accused of hiding from the law. He said he was on the contrary seeking the protection of the law.
Chidambaram said he would cooperate with the probe agencies if they were to arrest him before Friday, but hoped they would await the decision of the SC.
Chidambaram left the Congress office at 8.20 pm in a car, with Sibal and Singhvi, for his residence. Congress sources said he had gone to take a bath, which he could not the entire day, and the probe agencies, if they so desired, can arrest him. Dozens of Congress workers shouted slogans against the “dictatorial” attitude of the Narendra Modi government at the Congress headquarters as the vehicle left the bungalow for his home.
After much drama with CBI sleuths jumping over the boundary wall of the building where Chidambaram lives, which his son Karti in Chennai termed as “theatrics and voyeurism for the pleasure of the few” and a TV spectacle to divert attention from more basic issues, the Congress leader came out to be arrested at 9.45 pm. There were, however, allegations that Congress workers tried to stall his arrest.
At his press conference, Chidambaram said the foundation of a democracy and the spirit of the Constitution was liberty. “If I am asked to choose between life and liberty, I shall unhesitatingly choose liberty,” he said. He said that after the CBI and then the ED had summoned him to appear for questioning, he sought and was granted interim protection by the High Court on May 31, 2018 and July 25, 2018.
Explaining his absence, Chidambaram said he, along with other lawyers, worked through the night to prepare the papers and completed the task only this morning to file appeals in the SC.
Earlier in the day, a three-judge SC Bench led by Justice N V Ramana refused to hear Chidambaram’s plea and said the file would be sent to Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, who would take call on whether to list the case or not. On Sibal’s repeated insistence, Justice Ramana called the registrar (judicial) to the courtroom, who said that the petition would be placed before CJI Gogoi later in the day for appropriate administrative action.
Sibal’s assurance that Chidambaram was ready to give an undertaking that he would not run away had little impact on the outcome, as the Bench made it clear that they could do nothing until the matter was listed. While Karti has been accused of receiving ~10 lakh as kickbacks in connection with clearance worth ~305 crore for INX Media, Chidambaram has been accused of clearing the proposal at the behest of his son. The CBI has also alleged that Karti had received money from INX Media to scuttle a tax probe.