The Supreme Court on Monday asked the trial court to consider senior Congress leader P Chidambaram's request for interim bail in the INX Media corruption case after the former Finance Minister said that he not be sent to Tihar jail under judicial custody and offered to be in house arrest.
The Supreme Court said if Chidambaram's request for interim bail is not considered by the trial court on Monday itself, his CBI custody would be extended by three more days.
A bench of justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna directed CBI to file its response on Chidambaram's plea challenging the non-bailable warrant (NBW) issued against him and the subsequent orders of the trial court remanded him to CBI custody in the case.
Chidambaram's CBI custody in the INX Media corruption case is expiring on September 2 and he will be produced before the concerned trial court during the day.
Senior advocate and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, told the bench that the former minister was arrested pursuant to the NBW and he has been in the CBI custody for last 12 days.
"The NBW should not have been issued. Either give me (Chidambaram) interim bail or put me in house arrest. He (Chidambaram) should not be sent to Tihar Jail," Sibal said while questioning the issuance of NBW and the subsequent orders of the trial court remanding the former minister to CBI custody.
Remand orders of the trial court can be set aside by the apex court and Chidambaram should be given interim protection till the top court decides his petition, Sibal added.
"He (Chidambaram) has to file regular bail plea," the bench said, adding, "The competent court is seized of the matter. Why should we skip the jurisdiction of the regular court and the High Court?"
To this, the senior advocate said that if Chidambaram is sent to Tihar jail under judicial custody, his petition would become infructuous.
Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj, appearing for CBI, opposed the grant of any interim protection to the senior Congress leader and said that an accused cannot say that he want to be in either police custody or judicial custody.
Sibal said that Chidambaram will be produced before the trial court today after expiry of his CBI custody and if he would be sent to Tihar under judicial custody, his petition before the apex court would become infructuous.
"Give me (Chidambaram) interim bail or put me in house arrest. He is a 74-year-old man and has been in CBI custody for last 12 days," Sibal said.
The bench said that Chidambaram can make a request in this regard before the trial court.
Sibal said however that the trial court would "reject" his request and the top court should give him protection till the pending petition is decided.
The bench, after hearing the submissions, directed Chidambaram to approach the trial court seeking appropriate relief in accordance with the law, including prayer for interim bail.
It said in case the prayer for interim bail is not considered by the concerned court, then Chidambaram's CBI custody will be extended by three more days.
The bench said it would hear P. Chidambaram's plea on September 5.
In the INX Media case, the CBI had registered a First Information Report or FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance granted to the media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs. 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as finance minister. Thereafter, the ED had in 2018 lodged the money laundering case in this regard.
Both the probe agencies had contended that during Chidambaram's tenure as finance minister, FIPB clearance was granted to the media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs. 305 crore in 2007.
The high court had on July 25, 2018, granted interim protection from arrest to P Chidambaram in both the cases and it was extended from time to time.
The senior Congress leader's role had come under the scanner of various investigating agencies in the Rs. 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case involving Rs. 305 crore.