SC modifies order on PC's CBI remand after heated arguments
A high-decibel argument broke out on Monday between the legal teams of former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and the CBI in the Supreme Court as it heard the senior Congress leader's plea challenging the non-bailable warrant and remand orders of the trial court against him in the INX Media case.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, told the bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi that his client is a 74-year-old individual and cannot be sent to Tihar Jail, while his plea will become infructuous if it is not heard on Monday as it is then when his CBI custody ends.
Therefore, there were high chances that the trial court may send him to judicial custody, he added.
"Put him under house arrest or give interim bail," Sibal pleaded.
At this, the court said that the competent court is already seized of the matter. "Why should you skip the jurisdiction of the trial court and High Court, and move the Supreme Court," the court asked.
Sibal responded that it was "absolutely shocking what the investigating agencies did" as Chidambaram was given a mere two hours to defend him against his arrest. "I am begging of you. Please don't do this. Protect him till you hear this case. He shouldn't be sent to Tihar."
Additional Solicitor General K.M. Natarajan, appearing for CBI, vehemently opposed this line of arguments in court.
"This application is not maintainable... this procedure is not known to the law, and it will set a wrong precedent," he contested.
By this time, the lawyers were conducting their arguments at an extremely high-pitch and even Justice Banumathi was interrupted several times by Chidambaram's legal team, which virtually urged the judge to think over the after-effects of her adverse order, which may send him to the Tihar jail.
Claiming the trial court judge will not give them any relief, Sibal sought that the apex court should give him protection for few more days as "the investigating agencies cannot humiliate people in this manner".
As the judge said that there is no condition for house arrest, and why can't they make this request to the trial court, Sibal then asked the court to pass an order to stay the trial court order's if their request is rejected.
At this, ASG Natarajan expressed his strong opposition, asking "How can he do this?"
Following this high drama, the judge settled at extending Chidambaram's CBI custody till Thursday, if the trial court judge rejects his bail plea on Monday. Though it refused to grant him interim protection, it asked him to seek interim bail from the trial court, while also ordering that he be not be sent to Tihar Jail.
After lunch, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was not present in the earlier hearing, came to court seeking modification of its order, so that the matter is heard on Tuesday instead of Thursday.
The court was reluctant to accede to the change.
"It is an incidental matter. It may have repercussions on other matters," said the bench.
But Mehta insisted, saying that the period for custodial remand will end on Tuesday, and keeping Chidambaram in custody beyond the date will certainly lead to jurisdictional difficulties.
The judge told him that regular matters listed before the court are already suffering due to this matter, but the Solicitor General reiterated that there will be difficulty in the implementation of the apex court order and finally, succeeded in convincing the bench that the matter should be heard on Tuesday again.
"In view of above, list the matter tomorrow at 2 pm. The respondent (CBI) is at liberty to move the CBI court to seek police custody of the petitioner (Chidambaram) till tomorrow," the court said. IANS