Published On: Thu, Mar 15th, 2018
India | By IANS

INX Media case: SC extends relief to Karti Chidambaram from arrest

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday extended, till March 26, the interim protection from arrest granted to Karti Chidambaram by the Delhi High Court in the INX Media money laundering case.

There are over 1,000 plus cases where we (ED) have reached the stage of section 19 throughout the country

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud also transferred to itself the cases pending before the Delhi High Court relating to adjudication of Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) power to arrest an accused under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and also a plea filed by Karti Chidambaram seeking protection from arrest by ED in the case.

The bench’s order came after taking into note that several high courts in the country have given conflicting views on interpretation of Section 19 (power to arrest an accused under PLMA) of the PMLA and that it would deal with the issue of interpretation of the section.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, had referred to the orders passed by different high courts, including Delhi and Bombay, on the issue.

Earlier in the day, the Delhi High Court extended Karti Chidambaram’s protection from arrest in the ED case from March 20 to March 22.

The court was hearing plea filed by ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation against the high court order giving relief to Karti Chidambaram, son of Congress leader and former Union Minister P. Chidambaram, from arrest in the case.

In interim relief to Karti Chidambaram, the high court on March 9 had asked the ED not to take “any coercive action” against him till the next hearing of the case slated for March 20.

On March 8, the top court had asked him to approach the high court seeking quashing of summons issued by the ED.

The probe agencies approaching the top court said Karti Chidambaram has abused the law to get relief from the high court.

Mehta said that high court’s granting of relief would encourage persons, facing similar summons from ED in money-laundering cases, to move the high court under the Constitution’s Article 226 and blunt the probe.

“There are over 1,000 plus cases where we (ED) have reached the stage of section 19 throughout the country. Even if the larger bench of the Delhi High Court gives a finding (in the power to arrest an accused under PMLA), it will not bind other courts. So this court has to give a finding on it, otherwise people will come to Delhi High Court for ad-interim protection and we will not be able to do anything,” he said.

The bench said it would not go into the merits but interpret the provision related to ED’s power to arrest under PMLA and deal with the issue whether high courts could grant such relief under Article 226 which deals with high court’s power to issue writs and orders.

Appearing for Karti Chidambaram, senior advocate Kapil Sibal told the court that the cases under investigation by the CBI and the ED were identical and since he had been extensively interrogated by the CBI, it was not necessary for the ED to take him into custody.

He further argued that the ED had lodged an enforcement crime information report (ECIR), which is not an FIR, and hence issuance of summons to appear before the agency was illegal as well as breach of his client’s fundamental rights.

The agencies, however, contended that Karti Chidambaram had challenged the constitutional validity of the provision permitting ED to arrest on the basis of ECIR and as long as this was not declared unconstitutional, it must continue to operate.

Karti Chidambaram, arrested on February 28, is in jail till March 24 in the case lodged by the CBI.

The CBI had investigated him for allegedly receiving money to facilitate Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media in 2007 when his father was the Finance Minister in the UPA government.

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