New Delhi: Former union minister P Chidambaram, with investigating agencies on his trail, will not get any legal reprieve today with the Supreme Court refusing an urgent hearing on his request for anticipatory bail. The court will hear the petition on Friday. The Enforcement Directorate has put out a lookout circular for Chidambaram, who has not been seen since the High Court denied him protection from arrest on Tuesday, after which the CBI visited his home in Delhi twice.
“It is a monumental magnitude of money laundering case,” the CBI told the top court, arguing against Mr Chidambaram’s request for protection from arrest.
Senior lawyer and Congress leader Kapil Sibal told a three-judge bench Chidambaram was ready to guarantee he would not run away but the hearing was not listed over what appeared to be a technicality.
“Sorry, Mr Sibal. We cannot hear the matter,” said Justices NV Ramana, M Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi. The judges had this morning forwarded his petition to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
Sibal said that Chidambaram’s case was not listed today as the Chief Justice was sitting in the constitution bench hearing the Ayodhya case.
Sibal said the lookout notice – which means Chidambaram will not be allowed to leave the country – had been issued as if the former minister would run away.
In his petition before the Supreme Court, Chidambaram has argued that his antecedents are “impeccable” and there is no possibility of him “fleeing from justice”. Requesting more time to appear before the CBI, Chidambaram asks for interim relief “or else he would suffer irreparable loss”.
Chidambaram has been away from his home during visits by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate since yesterday. Around midnight on Tuesday, the CBI pasted a notice outside the house asking the former Finance Minister to appear before it within two hours of receiving the note.
“The petitioner is a law-abiding citizen and has reputation to sustain in the society. He is a sitting Member of the Rajya Sabha. The antecedents of the Petitioner are impeccable. He has never been an accused of any offence. There is no possibility of his fleeing from justice,” Chidambaram’s petition said, adding that “custodial interrogation is not at all warranted”.
Chidambaram is accused of facilitating foreign investment in the INX Media company in 2007, as Finance Minister in the Congress-led UPA government, at the instance of his son Karti, who allegedly received kickbacks for his role.
Rejecting Chidambaram’s request for anticipatory bail, the Delhi High Court yesterday said “prima facie”, the facts of the case revealed that the “petitioner is the kingpin or key conspirator in the case”.
Calling it a classic case of money laundering, Justice Sunil Gaur said: “It was pertinently observed that the economic crimes of such mammoth scale are craftily planned and executed. This grant of bail in cases like instant one will send a wrong message to the society.”
Shortly after the order, a CBI team of six officers showed up at Chidambaram’s home at Jor Bagh in south Delhi. After a few hours, the team left and another from the Enforcement Directorate arrived.
Chidambaram’s lawyer has asked the CBI not to take any “coercive action” until the Supreme Court hearing on his petition for bail.