New Delhi, Aug 21
Former Finance Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram was on Wednesday night arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from his Jor Bagh residence in New Delhi, an hour after he made a dramatic appearance at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters. He was taken to the CBI headquarters.
Chidambaram earlier appeared at a press conference almost 24 hours after going "incommunicado" in the wake of the Delhi High Court turning down his anticipatory bail plea in connection with the INX Media scam case.
Minutes after his appearance, teams from both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate arrived at his posh Jor Bagh residence. In unprecedented drama, CBI officials scaled the wall of his house to gain access.
The Supreme Court earlier listed for August 23 Chidambaram's anticipatory bail plea seeking protection from arrest in the INX Media case. No mention of Chidambaram's plea was made in Court after the Ayodhya land dispute hearing came to an end on Wednesday. A team of officers from the CBI arrived at Chidambaram’s posh Jor Bagh residence late last night but could not find him home.
The High Court denied the anticipatory bail plea to Chidambaram, saying he seems to be the "kingpin" and "key conspirator" in the case and needs to be interrogated in custody for the investigation to be effective.
Holding that the INX media scam was a "classic case of money laundering", the Court said the twin facts which have weighed to deny pre-arrest bail to Chidambaram are "gravity" of the offence and "evasive" replies given by him to questions put to him while he was under protective cover extended to him by the court.
Chidambaram, 73, also failed to get any immediate relief from the Supreme Court that was approached shortly after the High Court cancelled the interim protection from arrest, paving the way for the CBI and the ED to apprehend him.
The CBI team, which reached Chidambaram’s home hours after the High Court verdict, left the premises after confirming he was not present. A team of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also arrived later.
The CBI team, which comprised a few officials of the Superintendent of Police rank, did not make clear if it had gone to his residence to arrest Chidambaram for alleged irregularities in foreign investment clearance to INX media during his tenure as Finance Minister.
Officials said that the team returned to the CBI headquarters and discussed with senior officers the future course of action.
Later on Tuesday night, the CBI again visited Chidambaram's house and pasted a notice on the gate. Signed by CBI investigating officer and Deputy Superintendent of Police R Parthasarathy, it directed the former Minister to present himself within two hours of the receipt of the notice for further investigation in the case. The communication was emailed to Chidambaram as well.
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as finance minister. Afterwards, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2018.
The Congress party questioned the actions of the probe agencies against Chidambaram, asking what was the tearing hurry when the Supreme Court was slated to hear his appeal on Wednesday morning.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said that Chidambaram has sought an appeal in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. "His bail was rejected today but what was the urgency for the ED and the CBI to haunt him tonight?" he asked. “This is not a criminal trial. What is happening today is not good for democracy.”
Party leader Manish Tewari, in a tweet, said, "Unrelenting, insidious and vindictive persecution of P Chidambaram and his family is an insult to the rule of Law as it stands constituted in a democracy."
Chidambaram maintained a stoic silence and kept himself away from the media after the judgment. When the news of this setback reached him, the former finance minister was in the Supreme Court along with a few junior lawyers.
Chidambaram met senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Salman Khurshid, all Congress leaders, in the apex court for deliberating his further course of action.