- Chidambaram is already in CBI custody, which arrested him last week
- Chidambaram's counsel argued that the case against him doesn't stand
- The hearing in the case will continue tomorrow
Former Union Minister P Chidambaram cannot be arrested by the Enforcement Department till tomorrow, the Supreme Court, which is hearing his appeal for protection from arrest by the agency, said today. The senior Congress leader is already in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation, which arrested him last week. But being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate, the former minister has sought protection from court.
During today's hearing in the top court, Mr Chidambaram's legal team argued that the ED case against him does not stand, since the particular law was not there when the alleged offence was committed. It also demanded that the Enforcement Directorate produce the transcript of their questioning session with the senior Congress leader, which, they say, is evidence that he was not being evasive.
Mr Chidambaram was questioned in the INX Media case on three occasions. Appearing on his behalf, senior advocate and party colleague Kapil Sibal asked a bench of Justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna to order the agency to produce the transcripts of the questioning conducted on December 19, January 1 and 21. The agencies, he said, "are just producing documents at random and saying this is part of the case diary... They cannot place the documents behind the back and seek custody of accused".
The case has been "incorrect" since the beginning, said Abhishek Singhvi, who was also part of Mr Chidambaram's legal team.
The section on conspiracy in the PMLA Act (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) didn't exist for the time when the alleged offences took place. "Constitutional law states that a person cannot be charged with a crime that was not an offence at the time of its alleged commission. Nor can he be given greater punishment than prescribed at the time of commission of the offence," Mr Singhvi said.
The Enforcement Directorate can't compel Mr Chidambaram to answer, Mr Singhvi further said. Mr Chidambaram said he doesn't have a bank account abroad and that his son Karti Chidambaram has a foreign account with the permission of the Reserve Bank. The agency's move to arrest him and keep him in custody amounts to "extraction of confession", he said. The accusation has been denied by the Enforcement Directorate.
The hearing will continue tomorrow, the top court said.
During yesterday's hearing, Mr Chidambaram accused the Enforcement Directorate of leaking its document on charges against him to the media and blindsiding him with the allegations.
Mr Chidambaram had a bad day in court yesterday. While the Delhi High Court extended his CBI custody till Friday, the Supreme Court refused to take up his appeal for protection against arrest by the CBI, saying it has been overtaken by events.
Arguments on his second request for protection against arrest by the Enforcement Directorate were inconclusive. A third petition, challenging his arrest by the CBI, was not even listed.
Mr Chidambaram has been accused of facilitating a huge infusion of foreign funds into the media company INX Media in 2007, when he was Finance Minister, at the instance of his son Karti Chidambaram, who allegedly received kickbacks for his role.