The CBI custody of Karti Chidamabaram, son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, was extended by three days by a special court on Friday. He now faces further interrogation by the Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with the INX Media money laundering case, during which he will be questioned alongside his chartered accountant S Bhaskararaman.
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Special Judge Sunil Rana said that the CBI has been able to give "sufficient ground and justified reasons" to show that further custody of Karti, who was produced before the court on the expiry of his three-day police custody, was necessary.
The court also posted the bail application of Karti for hearing on 15 March after the CBI sought time to file its reply.
The judge allowed the agency to face him with his chartered accountant Bhaskararaman, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on 16 February and was today remanded in judicial custody till 22 March after the ED's counsel Nitesh Rana submitted that the probe was ongoing.
In a breather for Karti earlier on Friday, the Delhi High Court granted him interim protection from arrest in the INX Media case. As per the court order, he cannot be arrested by the ED till 20 March in the case.
The court also issued a notice and sought a response of the Centre and the ED on Karti's plea challenging the issuance of summons and proceedings initiated against him in the case. He had sought the quashing of the summons and all proceedings initiated by the ED, calling them "unreasonable, without jurisdiction, without authority of law, in colourable exercise of power and vitiated by mala fides".
Karti has been in CBI custody since his arrest on 28 February. The agency can apply for yet another three days of police custody under the law, which allows 15 days of police remand.
"The CBI has been able to give sufficient ground and justified reasons to show that it is possible to uphold the contention of the CBI that for the purpose of further and complete investigation, further custody of the accused is necessary to ensure continuity and to speed up investigation to secure the evidence, which may be useful at the trial or to arrive at the truth," the judge said in his order.
The court also directed the investigating officer to get Karti medically examined every 24 hours during the custody, as per the rules.
Another application by the CBI, seeking to bring Indrani Mukerjea and Peter Mukerjea, the then promoters of INX Media, to Delhi for investigation in the presence of the accused was dismissed by the court after the agency did not press it.
The judge said that the bail application would be taken up for consideration on 15 March after Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought time to file the reply to the plea.
Karti's father P Chidambaram, and his mother Nalini Chidambaram also a senior advocate, were present in the courtroom and were allowed to meet him for 15 minutes after the hearing.
During the proceedings, ASG Mehta said Karti's custodial interrogation was necessary as "new incriminating materials" and documents have been found and there was a need to confront him with them.
He claimed in the court that during a raid conducted the day before yesterday at the Chennai office of Advantage Strategic Pvt Ltd, various incriminating documents were recovered.
The ASG submittted that Karti has so far been maintaining "a false stand" that he was not connected to the firm, but the new documents seized during the raid showed the company belonged to him or his family members and he needed to be confronted with them.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is a party colleague of P Chidambaram in the Congress, opposed any further custodial interrogation of Karti, arguing that it was a ten-year-old case and all the documents are available with the investigating authorities, and the custody was harassment.
The CBI, however, said that a CD and hard disks have been recovered from the office of Advantage Strategic Pvt Ltd (ASPL) in Chennai in connection with the case which needed to be sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) for examination.