INX media case: Delhi court allows ED to grill and even arrest Chidambaram

The former minister is in Tihar in connection with a corruption case filed by the CBI

A Delhi court Tuesday allowed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate former finance minister P Chidambaram in Tihar jail tomorrow, and arrest him if necessary, in connection with the INX Media money laundering case.

The senior Congress leader's judicial custody in the INX Media corruption case, which was filed by the CBI, ends on October 17. Since his arrest on August 21, he has till Tuesday spent 54 days in custody -- both of the CBI as well as judicial -- in nine spells.

The court said three ED officials can interrogate Chidambaram on Wednesday after 8:30 am and asked the jail superintendent to make arrangements in this regard.

Special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar, who allowed the plea of the ED seeking permission to quiz Chidambaram, also rejected the Congress leader's plea seeking to recall the production warrant issued against him.

After the court passed the order, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Special Public Prosecutor Amit Mahajan, appearing for the ED, sought permission to question Chidambaram, 74, in some space available in Rouse Avenue court premises.

The court, however, said: "It's not in the dignity of this person that you interrogate and arrest him here in public view."

It said the ED in this case had moved the application seeking production warrant of the accused as he was in custody in case being investigated by the CBI for the predicate offence.

It said: "The DoE (Directorate of Enforcement) cannot interrogate accused without the permission of the court, he being in custody of this court. The application therefore sought for his production in the court for the purpose of arrest and remand.

"Therefore, in these circumstances, the DoE can seek the permission to interrogate the accused and then if the grounds specified in section 19 of the PMLA Act are made out, arrest the accused. Accordingly, the application for arrest of accused is being treated as an application for interrogation of accused is allowed accordingly."

Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 empowers the investigating agency/ED to arrest any person who is guilty of money laundering under the Act.

The court said ED's application for remand is premature at this stage and it would be considered only if Chidambaram is arrested in the case by the agency.

It also dismissed the plea of Chidambaram for cancellation or recall of production warrant against him on October 10.

"The plea cannot be allowed for two reasons -- Firstly, the production warrant were issued by this court being the jurisdiction court of the case in which he was in custody and secondly under the Criminal Procedure Code the courts exercising criminal jurisdiction have no power to recall any order passed by it. Thus the remedy against the October 11 order available with the accused was to challenge it in superior court," the judge said.

The Supreme Court had on September 5 refused to grant Chidambaram pre-arrest bail in the money laundering case lodged by the ED, saying his custodial interrogation was necessary and that grant of anticipatory bail at this stage will hamper investigation.

Chidambaram on Tuesday sought bail from the Supreme Court in the INX Media corruption case saying the CBI wants to keep him in custody to humiliate him. The court will hear on Wednesday the arguments of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI.

As for the money laundering case, ED's special public prosecutor's N K Matta and Nitesh Rana had on Friday moved a plea seeking production warrant of the senior Congress leader.

Advocate Arshdeep, appearing for Chidambaram, had urged the court to recall its order by which Tihar authorities were directed to produce Chidambaram before it.

The probe agency said in its plea that it requires custodial interrogation of Chidambaram in the money laundering case related to INX Media.

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