INX Media money laundering case: Karti Chidambaram sent to three days CBI custody
New Delhi : A special court on Tuesday extended by three days the custody of Congress leader P. Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram after the CBI claimed it had "new substantial evidence" proving his involvement in the INX Media money laundering case.
The CBI had sought a nine-day extension in the businessman's remand to question him. He was arrested last week and has since remained in CBI custody.
Judge Sunil Rana, in his five-page order, said extending Karti Chidambaram's CBI custody was "necessary" for the "purpose of further and complete investigation and interrogation of the accused: and to "speed up the investigation to secure the evidence, which may be useful at the trial or to arrive at the truth".
"Karti Chidambaram is remanded to three days' police custody remand. Let the accused be produced before this court on March 9."
Earlier, during arguments that ran for hours between the defence and prosecution, Karti Chidambaram's lawyer told the court that his client "is not a terrorist" that he could not be questioned without taking him in custody.
Singhvi said his client was cooperating in the investigation and he could be called for questioning whenever the CBI wanted to.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, arguing the case for the CBI, said the agency needed to interrogate Karti Chidambaram because it had found new "substantial evidence against" him.
"Names of a few more companies have surfaced yesterday only and for this purpose further custody remand is required."
The CBI submitted documents in the court which it said were related to foreign transactions in the INX Media case involving Karti Chidambaram.
Mehta alleged that Karti Chidambaram had been tampering with evidence in the case and "if the court extends the custody, then I will get a confession" from him.
He said Karti Chidambaram had refused to share his phone password with his interrogators which "is also a proof" that he was not cooperating.
"I agree that Karti Chidambaram has a right to remain silent. But when relevant questions are asked, he should answer them."
Singhvi argued that the accused had already spent five days in the CBI custody and was confronted with Indrani Mukerjea, a former media executive jailed in a murder case and a witness in the money laundering case, in Mumbai for only 25 minutes.
He contended that the agency had submitted no new ground why it wanted extension of the remand.
The CBI had in the last hearing of the case told the court that Karti Chidambaram was to be confronted with Mukerjea who allegedly claimed that he demanded $1 million from her and that she had paid him the bribe.
The bribe was allegedly demanded to facilitate a clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for INX Media when P. Chidambaram was the Union Finance Minister.
Singhvi, also a Congress leader, questioned if Mukherjea's statement was even admissible in the court. "The law of evidence and Article 21 of the Constitution prevent such statements to be admissible in the court of law."
"Karti is not a terrorist with a bomb that he cannot be interrogated without keeping him in custody."
Mehta in his rebuttal said Mukerjea's statement was not the only piece of evidence against the accused.
"From India to global, from rupees to dollars, we have suffered damage. It is a huge investigation and (the CBI) has made substantial progress (in the case) but needed more time."
The court allowed Karti Chidambaram to meet his father and mother Nalini for 10 minutes in the court room.
Earlier, in a related development, the Supreme Court refused to to give Karti Chidambaram interim protection from a possible arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
He had approached the top court seeking cancellation of the summons issued to him by the ED. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case on March 8.