The Supreme Court bench of Justices R Bhanumati and A S Bopanna on Thursday reserved orders on the petition filed by former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram against the August 20 judgment of the Delhi High Court that refused him pre-arrest bail in the INX media scam case.
The Court has directed the Enforcement Directorate(ED) to submit the materials collected by it in a sealed cover within three days. The bench has posted the matter for orders on September 5, and has clarified that the interim protection from arrest for the Congress leader will continue till then.
To counter the stand of ED that Chidambaram was evasive and non-cooperative, his lawyers had submitted that no important questions were put to him and had urged the Court to summon the transcript of interrogation and materials collected by the agency.
While the bail plea with respect to the case registered by CBI in respect of corruption allegations was dismissed as infructuous by the bench on August 23, the Court proceeded to hear the petition seeking protection from arrest by Enforcement Directorate for alleged money laundering in the INX transaction.
It was a marathon hearing, which started on August 23, and continued from noon on following working days till today.
Continuing his arguments today from Wednseday, the Solicitor General on Thursday submitted that investigation was an agency's prerogative. The Court ought not to interfere in the manner of investigation. Regarding the need of custodial interrogation, the decision of the investigating agency should be given deference.
"Responsible officials know how to extract information without 3rd degree. Anticipatory bail would reduce interrogation to a mere ritual.Court can't conduct investigation as it is an art to get the accused to divulge the relevant information. Art of investigation is to reveal certain things and not reveal certain things in certain cases.", he said.
In response of the submissions of Chidambaram's lawyers that the HC wrongly treated the offence as grave, the SG said that quantum of punishment is not the indicator of gravity (Senior Advocate Singhvi had submitted that the offences under PMLA were not grave as they were punishable with less than 7 years imprisonment).
Money laundering has grave impact on the nation's economy, and therefore the HC rightly treated the offence as grave, submitted the SG.
The SG also rebutted the argument on retrospective application of PMLA. Section 8 of the Act was always there. Even otherwise, the offence continued even after the 2007 INX transaction, the SG submitted.
In rejoinder, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said that the demand of arrest was unfair and unreasonable. He reiterated the criticism that the HC judge 'copy-pasted' the contents of a sealed cover note submitted by the ED.
"I have never seen a judgment where a note is placed before the judge after proceedings, then the same is reproduced in the judgment and then used as the court's findings. It's a travesty of justice", said Sibal.
Following Sibal, Senior Advocate A M Singhvi supplemented rejoinder arguments saying that Chidambaram was being probed for a crime that was not an offence in 2007.
The allegation is that as Union Finance Minister in 2007, Chidambaram took kickbacks for FIPB clearance for the FDI of INX media, and the money was routed through the companies linked with his son Karti Chidambaram.
The CBI has registered a separate case under Prevention of Corruption Act in respect of the corruption allegations. He was arrested from his Jor Bagh residence on August 21 by the CBI and is at present under custody till August 30.
A petition challenging the remand order has also been filed in SC.