New Delhi: Former union Finance minister P Chidambaram, who failed to get relief in the Supreme Court in the INX media corruption case earlier on Wednesday, was arrested from his Jor Bagh residence in the night amidst high drama. The CBI officials had to scale the walls to gain entry into the house as their knocks on the gates went unheeded.
Chidambaram had arrived at the residence a short while earlier, along with his lawyers and Congress colleagues Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singvi, who were present on the dais when he addressed the media at the AICC headquarters at about 8.15 pm.
After the arrest, Chidambaram was taken to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital before being driven to the CBI headquarters where the top brass of the premier investigation agency were waiting.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court did not list his appeal against the Delhi High Court order rejecting his anticipatory bail plea for hearing today itself due to procedural delays.
The Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has now listed the matter for hearing by an appropriate bench on Friday. The composition of the Bench will be known tomorrow. As the arrest is made, the appeal to be heard on Friday has become infructuous and he will have to seek regular bail from the special court hearing the case. The Enforcement Directorate put out a lookout circular for Chidambaram, who had gone missing soon after the High Court dismissed his plea for protection from arrest on Tuesday. The CBI visited his home in Delhi Tuesday night and next morning but he could not be traced. Summons asking him to appear for interrogation was pasted on the door at his residence.
The Congress was quick to react to the developments accusing the NDA government of launching a witch hunt, which was of course denied by the government.
The drama started this morning with senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tanka making an oral `mention' before the third senior judge N.V. Ramana for immediate listing of the appeal today itself.
Under the Supreme Court Rules, whenever the Chief Justice of India is heading a five judge Constitution Bench matter (today he was hearing the Ayodhya title dispute case), `mentioning' is made before the next senior most judge. As Justice S.A. Bobde, the second senior most judge is also in the Ayodhya case, mention was made before Justice Ramana.
Sibal told the Bench headed by Justice Ramana to "please give him protection from arrest till the matter is heard as otherwise the appeal will become infructuous." The plea was opposed by CBI which told the court "it is a monumental magnitude of money laundering case and no relief can be granted".
Justice Ramana told Sibal that he would refer the matter to the CJI for posting before an appropriate Bench.Under the SC Rules, the senior-most judge is empowered to direct listing of the case before the appropriate Bench as per the Roster. Being a high profile political case, Justice Ramana thought it fit to leave it to the CJI for listing the case.
Accordingly the CJI passed the order on the administrative side directing listing of the case on Friday. In view of the delay Mr. Chidambaram could not get the relief from the top court.
The ED/CBI is probing how P Chidambaram, who was the finance minister in 2006, granted a FIPB approval to a foreign firm when only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it. He is accused of favouring his son Karti Chidambaram to allegedly receive Rs 10 lakhs in kickbacks in 2007 to clear foreign investment worth Rs 305 crore for INX Media, which was owned by Peter and Indrani Mukherjea.
Sources said the arrest of Chidambaram was based on the statement before a magistrate (under Sec 164 Code of Criminal Procedure) made by Indrani after she turned approver in the case.