Can't tamper with evidence as it's in probe agency's custody: Chidambaram

P Chidambaram | Photo: @ANI

Former Union minister P Chidambaram, who is in jail in a money laundering case, on Wednesday sought bail in the Delhi High Court, saying as evidence is documentary and in custody of probe agencies, he cannot tamper with it.

The senior Congress leader's counsel told Justice Suresh Kait that the prosecution's complaint (charge sheet) has not been filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the court and how can Chidambaram influence witnesses, when he does not know them.

Chidambaram is in the Tihar jail in the INX Media money laundering case.

Since the beginning, the probe agency's case was never that the Congress leader tried to influence witnesses, but suddenly in October, when he was in custody, it was alleged that he had tried to put pressure and influence key witnesses, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Chidambaram, said.

The court, which was hearing submissions of 74-year-old Chidambaram's counsel on his bail plea, listed the matter for hearing the ED's arguments on November 8.

The ED, in its written response filed through advocates Amit Mahajan and Rajat Nair, has opposed the bail plea, saying the gravity of offences allegedly committed by Chidambaram does not entitle him for the relief.

The probe agency said the contention of the senior Congress leader that no offence is made out against him is "untenable in law" and his plea is liable to be rejected.

Sibal referred to a Supreme Court decision that probe agencies cannot just say that a person is interfering with the investigation and that they have to give evidence.

"I (Chidambaram) do not even know who are the witnesses in the case, how will I decide in custody as to whom I have to influence.

"They (ED officials) did not even put this question (on influencing witnesses) to me (Chidambaram) during interrogation. They should confront me but they have not," Sibal argued.

Referring to the high court's order granting bail to Karnataka Congress leader D K Shivakumar in a money laundering case, he said like in Chidambaram's case, the prosecution's complaint was also not there in Shivakumar's case.

Chidambaram, in the bail plea filed through advocate Arshdeep Singh, has denied the ED's claim that he used the office of finance minister for personal gains and laundered the proceeds of crime, saying no material directly or indirectly linking him with the alleged offence has been put to him so far or placed before the court.

The purpose of ED's opposition to grant of bail is not to advance the cause of justice but to harm his health which has already suffered severe damage after 75 days of custody since August 21, he said.

Singh referred to the Supreme Court's October 22 order granting him bail in the CBI case and said it has stated there was no evidence of tampering, flight risk and influencing witnesses against Chidambaram in the corruption case.

Chidambaram, who was granted bail by the Supreme Court on October 22 in the INX media corruption case, is lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody in the ED's money laundering case.

On November 1, the high court while disposing of the interim bail plea of Chidambaram, who was suffering from Crohn's disease, had directed the Tihar Jail Superintendent to provide him clean and hygienic surroundings and also mineral water, home cooked food and mosquito protection nets and repellant.

Chidambaram had earlier sought anticipatory bail in the money laundering case from the high court which dismissed the plea. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court which also refused to grant him the relief.

The ED had arrested him in the money laundering case on October 16. He was arrested by the CBI on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case.

The case was registered by the CBI on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in a 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 finance minister.

Thereafter, the ED had lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.

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