The Weekend Leader - Fear of arrest hangs over PC; SC to hear plea on Friday

Fear of arrest hangs over PC; SC to hear plea on Friday

BY SUMIT SAXENA   |  New Delhi


Fear of arrest continues to hang over former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram as his lawyers on Wednesday were unable to get urgent hearing in the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court order dismissing his anticipatory bail in the alleged corruption and money laundering cases involving INX Media. Chidambaram's plea will now be heard on Friday in the top court.

After the Delhi High Court order on Tuesday, a sense of desperation took over Chidambaram's legal team as they rushed to the Supreme Court Secretary General Office to request the Chief Justice to for an urgent hearing. 

The drama, which began on Tuesday at 4 pm, continued today till 5 p.m, as lawyers' representing Chidambaram knocked every door in the apex court -- twice Kapil Sibal and his team approached a bench headed by Justice Ramana, but could not get a hearing; the entire legal team made a silent appearance before the Chief Justice who was conducting the hearing in Ayodhya case. 

"We went up to the Chief Justice to show our face (to make him realize that Chidambaram's plea is yet to be listed), and not to make our voice heard", said Sibal after coming out of the Chief Justice courtroom. 

The senior advocates from Congress included Salman Khurshid, Vivek Tankha, Rakesh Khanna (Chairman, Supreme Court Bar Association) and Indira Jaising.

The investigating agencies are already hot on Chidambaram's heels, who continues to be "untraceable". The next 40 hours are very crucial for the former finance minister in the absence of any protection against arrest from the Supreme Court. His counsel have considered the worst and are stretched to their last bit to secure a hearing on his appeal before any coercive step is taken by the investigating agencies, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

After the Chief Justice, who is heading the Constitution bench hearing the Ayodhya case, got up after conducting the day-to-day hearing, Chidambaram's legal team rushed to the Registrar (Judicial) office to schedule a hearing on the matter as soon as possible. After having a discussion, the Registrar rushed to the Chief Justice; and the legal team holed up in the consultation room a few feet from Registrar's office waited impatiently. 

For nearly an hour, Chidabaram's lawyers were seen rushing back and forth to get a bit on the listing of the matter. Finally, at 5p.m, the lawyers broke the news that the court will hear the plea on Friday.

Earlier in the day, a battery of lawyers for Chidambaram headed by Kapil Sibal appeared twice, before and after lunch break, in the court of Justice N.V. Ramana. Sibal said: "We had no choice. That is why we have come to this court again."

Justice Ramana said some defect had been noticed in the petition. Sibal said they had cured the defect and pleaded with the court to list the matter as early as possible. "My client is not running away; a lookout notice has been issued against him. He is ready to give an undertaking that he is not going anywhere," Sibal said.

Justice Ramana called the Registrar who informed the court that defects had been cured and that after verification, the petition would be listed. As Sibal insisted that the petition be heard, Justice Ramana refused, saying without listing the matter, he could not hear it.

In the morning, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ramana refused to grant interim relief from arrest to Chidambaram and referred his plea for anticipatory bail in the INX Media case to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi for urgent hearing. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that this was a case of "monumental money laundering".

At this, Sibal contested that at 2 a.m. a notice was pasted on the former Union Minister's residence. Sibal said that on Tuesday they did approach the Chief Justice, but could not get an urgent hearing. He said the documents related to the case were ready for urgent hearing. 

Chidambaram has challenged the Delhi High Court order which rejected his anticipatory bail plea on Tuesday.

On January 25, the Delhi High Court reserved order on Chidambaram's bail plea in the case being probed by the ED and the CBI. 

The agencies had opposed Chidambaram's bail plea, saying his custodial interrogation was necessary as he was evasive and had given false information during questioning. The ED and CBI are probing how his son Karti Chidambaram got clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in 2007 when his father was the Finance Minister. 

Karti Chidambaram was arrested on February 28, 2018 by the CBI for allegedly accepting money to facilitate the FIPB clearance to INX Media. He was later granted bail. His chartered accountant S. Bhaskararaman was also arrested and released on bail.

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