Approver is a status and not evidence in a case, Congress's Abhishek Manu Singhvi said today while representing former Union minister P Chidambaram at a special court in Delhi. The former finance minister was arrested yesterday after high drama and was presented in court today, which sent him to CBI custody till Monday. The Central Bureau of Investigation had asked for five days' custody, arguing that a "monumental and serious" offence like money laundering cannot be uncovered unless they are allowed to interrogate him in custody.
The agency alleges that in 2007, P Chidambaram facilitated a huge transfusion of foreign funds to INX Media, then owned by former media baron Peter Mukerjea and his wife Indrani Mukerjea during his tenure as the finance minister in the UPA government. His son Karti Chidambaram had received kickbacks for the deal, investigators have said.
The CBI, whose men - in full view of television cameras -- scaled the walls of Mr Chidambaram's south Delhi house last evening to arrest him - contends that he is not cooperating with the investigation.
P Chidambaram's counsel Kapil Sibal, a senior Congress leader and veteran lawyer, questioned how the agency was making such a claim. Mr Chidambaram, he said, was summoned for questioning only on one occasion, and he complied. "How can he be accused of non-cooperation," Mr Sibal said.
Mr Sibal also argued that Mr Chidmbaram was only the one who approved the FIPB's (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) decision to allow foreign funds to the tune of 305 crore to INX Media. But the six secretaries who gave the approval as part of FIPB were not arrested. One of them later became the Governor of the Reserve Bank and another, the CEO of government's think tank Niti Aayog, he said.
"This case is completely based on a case diary and a statement of another accused," Congress's Abhishek Manu Singhvi said. Mr Chidambaram, he said, was first called in June 2018, months after Indrani Mukerjea recorded her statement.
Indrani Mukerjea and her husband have accused P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram of involvement in providing clearance of a massive dose of foreign funds. The couple are in jail, accused in the murder of Indrani Mukerjea's daughter Sheena Bora.
"For the last one year, there were no summons but now they (the CBI) want custody. Indrani has turned approver now on basis of her 2018 statement. To create a reason for custody of my client, she has been made the approver, stating new facts have emerged. Is approver evidence? Can that be the basis for his arrest and now custody?" Mr Singhvi said.
Building its case on Indrani Mukerjea's statement, the Enforcement Directorate has convinced the Delhi High Court that prima facie, there is a strong case against P Chidambaram and his son.
On Tuesday, the high court refused anticipatory bail to the former minister, which led to his arrest last evening.