SC bars Chidambaram's arrest by ED till Wednesday (Lead)

New Delhi, Aug 27 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended the protection from arrest for former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the INX Media case till Wednesday.

A bench comprising Justices R. Banumathi and A.R. Bopanna said it would hear the arguments of the Enforcement Directorate's counsel on Chidambaram's two petitions including the challenge to the remand orders issued by the trial court.

The apex court took on record that it will not be influenced by any views expressed by the Delhi High Court in denying anticipatory bail to Chidambaram and instead the case will be heard on merits.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Chidambaram, told the court that its applications for transcripts of the questions and answers by his client should be brought on record.

"It is their case that they have all the evidence, and our case is that they did not put this information before him," argued Sibal. The court directed the registry to receive the application and post the application with the main matter.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, also appearing for Chidambaram, cited the triple test of anticipatory bail for his client. First, he is not a flight risk unless in the case of a terrorist. Second, he has been cooperating, and third, he cannot tamper with the evidence in an 11-year-old case, and the documents have been frozen.

"The allegations in the INX Media case against father and son are similar. Son has already got regular bail," submitted Singhvi before the court.

Singhvi also pointed out the Delhi High Court order where "grave" was used thrice by the judge, which indicates the word was only being used as a subjective adjective.

"Grave is like death penalty, or seven years or more punishment," contended Singhvi. He also referred to the frequent use of the expression "gravity of the offence" in the ED case, and pointed out that this word is subjective.

Earlier during the day, Chidambaram's lawyers argued on the retrospective effect of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Singhvi had told the court that the offence allegedly dated back to 2007 but the PMLA provisions came into effect in 2009. Despite this, the ED had invoked these provisions against Chidambaram.

Singhvi contended that the main provisions of the law against Chidambaram became scheduled offences under PMLA only in 2009, which was a year after when the alleged FIPB approval was given in 2007-08.

Singhvi told the court that the sections under which Chidambaram had been charged did not exist when the alleged transaction took place.

"You are trying to paint a person as a kingpin. And it is on the basis of offences that did not exist at that point in time," submitted Singhvi.

Arguing on the line of questioning adopted by the investigating agencies, Singhvi said it appeared they were attempting to extract a confession from Chidambaram.

He also told the court that investigating agencies were painting a wrong picture that Chidambaram was evasive.

During questioning, the officers expect one to give the answer they want or continue to face questions till the time they get a favourable answer, Singhvi submitted before the bench.

Meanwhile, Sibal filed an application for the production of transcripts of custodial interrogation of Chidambaram who is in CBI custody.

Chidambaram on Tuesday filed a rejoinder to the Enforcement Directorate affidavit, which details the list of countries where he and "his co-conspirators" allegedly held bank accounts and properties.

Sibal told the top court that he opposes the ED's request to submit records in sealed cover in the court. Sibal told the court that the ED cannot place documents behind his back and then seek arrest and interrogation as this is not even possible in matters of detention.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta will commence his arguments on Wednesday.

--IANS

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