P Chidambaram pointed out that he has not been named an accused in the INX case. (PTI)
Former Union minister P Chidambaram was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation this evening after high drama outside his South Delhi home, complete with slogan-shouting supporters, police and unprecedented visuals of CBI investigators scaling walls and roof to gain access inside. He has been taken to the CBI office for questioning.
The race started earlier this evening as the senior leader — sought by investigative agencies for nearly 24 hours in connection with a corruption case — appeared at the Congress headquarters.
In his short address to the media, Mr Chidambaram pointed out that he has not been named an accused in the case. But he said he has faith in the law “even if it is applied by an unequal hand” by the investigative agencies.
“I can only hope and pray that the investigating agencies will also respect the law. In the present circumstances, respect for the law can mean only one thing: Await the decision of the Supreme Court on Friday… Until Friday, let’s hope the lamp of liberty will shine bright,” he said in a message to the investigative agencies. Friday is when the Supreme Court will hear his request for anticipatory bail.
“I was aghast that I was accused of hiding from the law… I was pursuing the law,” said the 73-year-old, who was not seen in public since the Delhi High court refused to protect him from arrest on Tuesday. “I was working alongside my lawyers the whole of last night… and the whole day,” he explained.
Minutes later, Mr Chidambaram left, accompanied by party colleagues Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The CBI, caught off guard by the former minister’s surprise appearance, had rushed to the party office to arrest him. On finding out that they had had left the premises, the officials drove to Mr Chidambaram’s home.
As they reached, the area outside the former minister’s Jor Bagh house descended into chaos.
Amid slogan-shouting supporters and Delhi Police and paramilitary forces who arrived to keep the peace, the CBI personnel were seen scaling the walls and entering the compound in full view of television cameras. They, however, managed to gain admission into the house after nearly an hour.
But on their way out with Mr Chidambaram, the car was blocked by slogan-shouting Congress supporters and could proceed only after police intervention.
Mr Chidambaram has been accused of facilitating a huge infusion of foreign funds into a television company, INX Media, in 2007 at the behest of his son Karti Chidambaram, who allegedly received kickbacks for this. At the time, he was the country’s finance minister in the UPA government.
Mr Chidambaram and his son were named by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea, who owned INX Media at the time and are currently in jail in connection with the murder of Indrani Mukerjea’s daughter Sheena Bora.
Mr Chidambaram has denied the allegations, saying the case is politically motivated.
Mr Chidambaram had got interim relief from arrest last year. But yesterday, the Delhi High Court refused to provide Mr Chidambaram any further protection from arrest, saying “magnitude and enormity” of material produced by the investigating agencies “dis-entitles him from any pre-arrest bail”.
The court also called him the “kingpin” in the case and said blocking ivestigative agencies from doing their job will send a “wrong message”.
Since the verdict, the CBI visited Mr Chidambaram’s house twice and two lookout circulars — meant to stop a person from leaving the country — have been issued against him by the agency and the Enforcement Directorate.
In his petition before the top court today, the former minister argued that his antecedents are “impeccable” and there is no possibility of him “fleeing from justice”. But his petition was not heard on technical grounds and fresh date has been given for the hearing.
The Congress has rallied behind the senior leader, with Rahul Gandhi calling the investigative agencies’ pursuit of Mr Chidambaram a “disgraceful misuse of power” and his sister Priyanka Gandhi saying the former minister was being “shamefully hunted down”.
After Mr Chidambaram’s arrest, Congress’s Randeep Surjewala tweeted: “The shameless witch-hunt & unheard of abuse of CBI/ED by Modi Govt 2.0 is playing on every TV screen in India. It’s a sham and shame that democracy stands dead in the hands of the BJP.”
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