IANS /New Delhi
Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidamabram was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a swift operation last night, minutes after he reached his Jor Bagh home following a dramatic appearance at a press conference at the Congress headquarters.
Chidambaram was immediately taken to the CBI headquarters to be questioned in the INX media case.
He was seated in the middle of a white car with CBI personnel sitting on either side as he was driven to the headquarters of the agency, located barely a few kilometres away from his house.
Sources said CBI Director Rishi Kumar Shukla himself was present at the headquarters along with top officers for questioning the former minister.
The moment Chidambaram arrived at his home from the press conference, the CBI personnel scaled the walls and entered the building.
A small group of slogan-shouting Congress workers were contained by Delhi police personnel from posing any obstructions. The entire operation was swiftly executed within half-an-hour of his arrival in Jor Bagh.
Sources said that his lawyers were present with Chidambaram when he was taken into custody.
A team of CBI personnel had been keeping surveillance outside Chidambaram’s house ever since the Delhi High Court denied his anticipatory bail on Tuesday. The CBI team could not find him at home but they swarmed the area keeping a vigil on the visitors.
Earlier at the press conference, Chidambaram said he was “not hiding from the law but seeking protection of the law”.
“I was aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law. On the contrary, I was seeking protection of law. I was accused of running away from justice. On the contrary, I was engaged in the pursuit of justice,” Chidambaram told reporters.
“In the INX media case, I have not been accused of any offence, nor is anyone else, including any member of my family been accused of any offence. In fact, there is no charge sheet filed by either the CBI or the ED before a competent court. And statements recorded by the CBI do not impute to me any wrongdoing. Yet there is a widespread impression that grave offences have been committed, and my son and I have committed those offences.
“Nothing can be farther from the truth. These are lies spread by pathological liars. When I was summoned by the CBI and then the ED to appear for questioning, I naturally sought interim protection against the arrest from the competent court. I was granted interim protection. I have enjoyed the interim protection for the last 13-15 months. The matters were finally heard.
“I was not hiding but I was working alongside my lawyers throughout the night and today to prepare the papers. We completed the task only this morning.
“My lawyers have told me that despite their impassioned pleas, the cases were not listed today, nor will they be listed tomorrow, but will only be listed on Friday. I bow down to the orders of the Supreme Court.
“Between now and Friday I shall walk with a clear conscience and my head held high. I shall respect the law even if it is applied with an unequal hand by the investigating agencies,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Chidambaram’s lawyers were unable to get an urgent hearing in the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court order dismissing his anticipatory bail in the alleged corruption and money laundering cases involving INX Media. After the Delhi High Court order on Tuesday, a sense of desperation took over Chidambaram’s legal team as they rushed to the Supreme Court Secretary General Office to request the chief justice to for an urgent hearing.
The drama, which began on Tuesday at 4pm, continued till 5pm yesterday, as lawyers’ representing Chidambaram knocked every door in the top court - twice Kapil Sibal and his team approached a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana, but could not get a hearing; the entire legal team made a silent appearance before Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi who was conducting the hearing in Ayodhya case.
After the chief justice got up after conducting the day-to-day hearing, Chidambaram’s legal team rushed to the Registrar (Judicial) office to schedule a hearing as soon as possible. After having a discussion, the Registrar rushed to the chief justice; and the legal team holed up in the consultation room a few feet from the Registrar’s office waited impatiently.
For nearly an hour, Chidabaram’s lawyers were seen rushing back and forth to get a bit on the listing of the matter. Finally, at 5pm, the lawyers broke the news that the court would hear the plea tomorrow.
In the morning, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ramana refused to grant interim relief from arrest to Chidambaram and referred his plea for anticipatory bail in the INX Media case to Gogoi for urgent hearing. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that this was a case of “monumental money laundering”.
At this, Sibal contested that at 2am a notice was pasted on the former minister’s residence. Sibal said that on Tuesday they approached the chief justice, but could not get an urgent hearing. He said the documents related to the case were ready for an urgent hearing.
“We went up to the chief justice to show our face (to make him realise that Chidambaram’s plea is yet to be listed), and not to make our voice heard”, said Sibal after coming out of the chief justice’s courtroom.
The senior advocates from Congress included Salman Khurshid, Vivek Tankha, Rakesh Khanna and Indira Jaising.
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