3 days that lead to Chidambaram's arrest. 3 days in which the Congress party panicked and shielded a powerful man accused of corruption and money laundering conspiracy. This article is in First-person by someone who witnessed history getting created, and truth triumph. This is reported by someone on the ground.
On day 1, 20.8.19, at 3:02 pm, Justice Sunil Gaur denied bail to former union finance minister P Chidambaram, thereby, opening the gates for his imminent arrest. Panic seized the Congress party that jettisoned it's sharpest legal mind Kapil Sibl to the High Court to save him. Sibal was seen near the registry trying to have the case listed, but alas it was not so. At the same time, one Congress team dashed to the supreme court to request the registry to have the case listed that day itself. The reason for panic: it was clear Chidambaram could be arrested. Unravelling before my eyes were scenes rarely seen, - a battery of congress legal eagles made its way to the registry. Keep in mind, dear readers, it's the junior Advocate s who are usually seen here, not senior members of the Bar, like Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram themselves.
Sibal and Chidambaram were outside the Registrar office. However realising the case couldn't be listed that day, deliberations began in the Consultation Room in the top court. Over the next few days, this Room in the top court was going to become akin to the Congress legal battle room. It has 4-5 small chamber like cabinets, and in one Cabinet a huge team of Congress bigwigs, their juniors, advisors, used to gather overfilling the room.
On day 1, while exiting the top court, at Gate E, I had a word with Dr Singhvi and Mr Khurshid who smiled their worries away but Sibal let the cat out of the bag. Revealingly, on being asked simple questions he sermoned us, not to be aggressive. From another gate of the top court, clad in his signature white, wearing his steely cold smile exited Mr P Chidambaram. Hiding behind the steely expression was fear that his corruption was going to catch up.
He exited the court with his lawyer, I chased his car out off the top court asking one question- " Worried about what will happen now, Mr. Chidambaram?" He turned his face and the driver raced his car away, but not before I saw a look of extreme anxiety cross his face. caught off guard, his fears were revealed. The only question in my mind now was when would the CBI, ED sleuths arrest him? They were outside his home but no one knew where he had vanished. We realised he would be at his lawyer's home. I rushed to Dr. Singhvi's office but missed him by a hair's breadth.
On day 2, the Congress party spent a harrowing 7 hours in top court trying to get Chidambaram's case listed. They knew if the case was not listed, their" eminent" leader would face arrest. At 10:30 am, The Supreme Court refused urgent listing of Chidambaram's petition. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represent ing the CBI and ED submitted before the SC -It's a money-laundering scam of monumental magnitude.
At 2 PM Sibal, Tankha, Khurshid, Jaisingh all once again gathered in a jam-packed court 3 to make another attempt to get the case heard. The judges refused, saying that the defects in the plea were not cured. The lawyers were heard grumbling. Once again they made their way to the Congress legal war room ( the consultation room). At 4 they all rushed to the CJI bench at court 1. We wondered why. They just sat there and waited for the bench to get up.
Outside court when Sibal was asked why, he said, "I just wanted to show my face to the CJI." ( hinting that they had been waiting since morning for relief) The Congress legal team made their way into the war room, giving one last-ditch effort to have the matter listed that day itself. The Registrar went to the CJI's chambers. The suspense built up. Tense lawyers, tired journalists, worried parties, anxious CBI sleuth, all waited- The Registrar finally emerged. He listed the case for Friday. Chaos broke out. Four member CBI team hurried away.
I realised what it meant. A two-day window was given to the CBI and ED to arrest him. Two hours later, Congress announced a press conference. And appearing at that was the Accused who had been Missing. The Man against whim there was a lookout the issue- P Chidambaram. After speaking scripted lines that this was a political vendetta, he left for his residence.
Unprecedented scenes were witnessed at his jor bagh mansion when he didn't allow the CBI and ED to enter, his home. The CBI sleuths jumped in. Orders were given to get him out of the back gate. At the front gate, police assistance was taken to control the protestors who, were creating a planned hindrance. Finally, Chidambaram was arrested.
We followed his car, he was seated between two CBI officers, and the car rushed him away to the CBI office. It was a deja vu moment. The same CBI officers, probing the same case, had arrested his son, too. The arrogant Karti had asked them for five star food , and asked CBI officials if they had the Zomato App. Life comes a full circle. Only time will tell, of the whimsical demands of the senior Chidambaram who is now in police custody of the CBI for 5 days. What is clear is this time he can't be evasive to the interrogation of the CBI on the INX media case.
(By Republic Media Network's Legal Editor Rhythm Anand Bhardwaj)