BY ANANYA BHATNAGAR
New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) A CBI court on Monday extended the CBI custody of former Union Finance Minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram till August 30 in the INX Media case as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that “some documents and evidence” have emerged.
Mehta told the Special Central Bureau of Investigation judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar, whose court was packed during the remand hearing, that “some documents and evidence have emerged so that’s why we need his custody to confront him with them”.
“I must point out that the Enforcement Directorate has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court. They have shared with us some information and material regarding the predicate offence (crime that is a component of a more serious crime) and we want to confront him with that,” he added.
The Rouse Avenue Court was turned into a fortress with heavy police deployment ahead of the hearing. A large crowd of lawyers, journalists and general public was waiting inside the court room for the proceedings to begin.
Attired in his traditional white, Chidambaram, who was on Thursday sent to CBI custody till August 26 after his dramatic arrest the previous night, was produced before the court.
An unflustered Chidambaram stood smiling in the witness box during the hearing. He greeted his lawyers and others with a ‘namaste’.
Along with his legal counsel and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, his counsel and senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi and senior advocate Dayan Krishnan from his legal team were also there.
CBI counsel and public prosecutor Padmini Singh was present and after ED counsel Sonia Mathur reached the court, the hearing began.
Mehta cited three grounds for seeking extension of remand by another five days. He said Chidambaram was confronted with documents, and a co-accused, and his interrogation was also recorded.
Mehta told the court: “The confrontation memo was not signed on the ground that he has answered the question previously. We need a further five days to unravel the larger conspiracy.”
As Judge Kuhar wanted to know what the agency had done with the accused in the last four days, he submitted an investigation related document, which the judge then proceeded to read.
Then, Mehta told the court that some material had emerged necessitating extension of custody “to confront him with them”.
Sibal countered: “Their averment was $5 million was paid. But how that was paid to him, there are no questions about that, no documents were put to him on it.
“The next thing they asked was did Peter Mukerjea pay the money to him, to which he responded ‘No’.”
Sibal alleged that the agency makes “sensational statements but doesn’t put up any documents for this”, adding that there were no questions about bank accounts or shell companies.
As Mehta objected saying that this is related to the ED offence, Sibal hit back: “I am reading out from your own remand application. You make an allegation, sensationalize it and then don’t show anything.”
“Personal liberty is precious,” said Sibal, to which the Solicitor General said acerbically: “I avoided being rhetorical.”
Mehta then said: “We have sent Letters Rogatory to five counties. They are not in our jurisdiction. It is not easy, we are trying to establish a connect.”
Sibal countered with: “You can’t say I am waiting for response (from the countries).”
When Mehta riposted: “I am not saying that we are seeking remand while waiting for the LRs”, Sibal said: “This means that there is no ground for the allegation of $5 million.”
“This method of seeking remand and then carrying out investigation in this fashion is not right,” he added.
Mehta replied: “This is a case diary, in chronological order just not bound.”
Sibal shot back: “This is against the provisions of the law.”
Finally, Judge Kuhar extended the CBI custody of Chidambaram till August 30.
BY ANANYA BHATNAGAR