The centre today opposed former Union Minister P Chidambaram's petition for interim protection from arrest by investigation agencies, saying that any such order by the Supreme Court would hinder the ongoing probe into a case of "monumental" money laundering involving INX Media.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate in the top court, maintained that custodial interrogation of Mr Chidambaram was sorely needed to unravel transactions allegedly made through shell companies in the case. "I am saying with a sense of responsibility that this is a case of money laundering of a monumental magnitude," he said.
The Supreme Court eventually granted interim protection from arrest to Mr Chidambaram in the case, and posted the next hearing for Monday. The Congress leader, however, will remain in CBI custody until then due to the top court's refusal to interfere with an order delivered in this regard by a special CBI court yesterday.
"Having heard the counsels for the petitioner and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, we are of the view that the co-accused were granted bail in the ED case. Petitioner shall not be arrested till further hearing of the case. List the petition on Monday (August 26). The respondent shall file their reply and contentions by Monday," the bench comprising Justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna said.
Mr Chidambaram has been accused of facilitating a huge infusion of foreign funds into a television company - INX Media - in 2007 at the instance of his son Karti, who allegedly received bribes for his role. He was the Union Finance Minister at the time.
In his objection to granting Mr Chidambaram interim protection, the Solicitor General said that the Enforcement Directorate has collected innumerable pieces of evidence to prove that properties were bought by the accused both in India and abroad. His claims led to a heated argument between the prosecution and defence counsel.
Advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who are arguing Mr Chidambaram's case in court, said they have filed a separate petition to challenge the Special Judge's order sending him to CBI custody.
Mr Chidambaram was arrested amid high drama on Wednesday, a day after the Delhi High Court refused to grant him anticipatory bail in the INX Media case. Justice Sunil Gaur called the former Union Minister the "kingpin" in the case, and said that he should not be given special treatment just because he is a parliamentarian.
(With inputs from PTI)