Chidambaram can seek bail after completing judicial custody

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New Delhi: Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram can apparently explore legal options after he has spent the requisite time, till September 19, in judicial custody.

Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar on Thursday sent Chidambaram to judicial custody in the CBI case involving INX Media. Chidambaram will only be able to apply for bail after 14 days in the trial, as the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court has already rejected his anticipatory bail plea.

Justice R. Banumathi of the apex court had told Chidambaram’s lawyers that it was not acceptable as he had skipped the jurisdiction of the trial and high court, and instead moved the top court seeking relief. Both the ED and the CBI are probing him in connection with the INX Media scam.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, during arguments, had submitted before the court that Chidambaram has technically short-circuited the legal channel by directly moving the Supreme Court instead of the competent court. And, Mehta referred that four-day long argument on anticipatory bail is a legal tactic to engage the apex court in a mini-trial on the matter. “It will set as a bad precedent,” the SG said in an affidavit.

Chidambaram has also moved another application in the court seeking permission to surrender in the Enforcement Directorate case relating to INX Media. The court had issued a notice to the financial probe agency and the hearing on it would take place on September 12.

The trial court has also allowed the application moved by Chidambaram seeking medicine and a western-style toilet in jail along with Z-category security and a separate cell with a cot and a bathroom.

During the course of hearing, Chidambaram’s counsel, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that there was “nothing found” against his client, and if he was a “powerful person” and could influence the witness, they should bring some evidence of at least an attempt of tampering of evidence or influencing of witness.

At this, in a sharp jibe at Sibal, Mehta had said: “Are you arguing on bail?”

Mehta also informed the trial court that “so far as the ED case is concerned, the Supreme Court has accepted the chance of tampering. There is a strong possibility of tampering with the evidence”.

The next 14 days will be crucial for the Chidambaram’s legal team, as it would have to devise a strategy to get him out on bail.