CBI custody extended; Chidambaram takes a dig at govt, asks: Do you know 5%

P Chidambaram Court CBI
Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram after being produced at Rouse Avenue Court in connection with INX media case, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday (September 3) said the CBI custody of former finance minister P Chidambaram would continue till September 5 in the INX Media corruption case.

The apex court asked Chidambaram’s counsel not to press for the interim bail plea, which they had filed before the trial court on Monday and is scheduled to be heard during the day, till September 5.

Chidambaram took a dig at the NDA government over the slump in GDP, which has dropped to over six-year low of 5 per cent in the April-June quarter.

Minutes after Chidambaram stepped out of the courtroom, when journalists asked what he had to say about his CBI custody, Chidambaram quipped, “Five per cent. Do you know what is five per cent?”

He also raised his hand to show five fingers as the CBI took him away in custody.

He was referring to the slump in India’s economic growth for the fifth straight quarter to an over six-year low of 5 per cent in the three months ended June as consumer demand and private investment slowed amid deteriorating global environment.

A bench of justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna said it would on September 5 hear Chidambaram’s plea in which he has challenged the non-bailable warrant issued against him as well as the subsequent trial courts orders remanding him in the CBI custody.

While posting the matter for hearing on Thursday, the bench said: “We are conscious that we should not usurp the jurisdiction of the concerned trial court.”

Also read: INX Media case: Chidambaram not to be sent to Tihar jail for now

At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, moved an application seeking recall of the apex court’s Monday order. He said that based on the order, Chidambaram’s counsel had moved interim bail plea before the trial court.

Mehta said Chidambaram’s counsel pressed before the trial court that the interim bail plea should be decided on Monday itself and the trial judge issued notice to the CBI asking it to file response within 24 hours.

“The matter is listed for hearing today (September 3) before the trial court at 3.30 pm. Less than 24 hour notice was given to the CBI to respond to the interim bail plea which was filed 13 days after his arrest. This should not be the procedure,” he told the bench.

After hearing Mehta’s submissions, the bench said the interim bail plea be listed for hearing before the trial court on September 5 and the apex court will hear Chidambaram’s plea on that day itself.

“The present status will continue till then. CBI’s custody will be extended till day after tomorrow (September 5),” the bench said.

Also read: Govt’s motive is to demonise Chidambaram, alleges his family

Mehta then told the bench: “If we don’t take his custody then the law must take its course. We don’t need his custody.”

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi opposed Mehta’s submissions and said that if Chidambaram is sent to jail under judicial custody then his plea pending before the apex court would become infructuous.

Sibal told the bench that they would not press for the interim bail plea before the trial court today and Chidambaram’s CBI custody should be extended till Thursday.

The bench, while posting Chidambaram’s plea for hearing on September 5, said that it would decide the matter on Thursday itself. The apex court is also scheduled to pronounce its order on September 5 on Chidambaram’s separate plea in which he has challenged the August 20 verdict of the Delhi High Court denying him anticipatory bail in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate.

The CBI had lodged an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambarams tenure as union finance minister.