New Delhi: Choosing date of arrest could not be the right of an accused, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) told a Delhi court on Thursday while opposing the surrender application filed by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in a money laundering case relating to INX Media.
"Choosing the date of arrest is not the right of any accused. It's always the right of the probe agency to take a decision in the interest of effective investigation," the ED said in an affidavit filed before the court of Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar.
A copy of the affidavit was accessed by IANS. "At the present stage, the investigating agency is completing the investigation pertaining to certain aspects of money laundering in the present case, which is necessarily required to be gone into before an effective and meaningful custodial interrogation of the applicant/P Chidambaram," the document said.
The agency informed the court that it had summoned six people since September 6 in connection with the case. Of them, three had been interrogated and further interrogation was on, it added.
The ED also said interrogation of the six was "extremely crucial" before questioning of Chidambaram in the custody. "It is only after the Directorate of Enforcement completes the aforesaid background investigations, the interrogation of the applicant would yield more effective, meaningful and more elicitation-oriented results within the permissible 15 days," the affidavit opposing Chidambaram's prayer to surrender before the court stated.
The agency said the arrest was justified and was according to the principles laid down under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002.
"It is my case that the arrest was necessary and is still necessary and we would have exercised the power of arrest had he not been in the judicial custody.
But now as he is in the judicial custody and cannot tamper with evidence or influence the witness, we will utilise this time to complete background interrogation and then seek his custody for effective utilisation of the 15-day period," said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta during the hearing.
Opposing Mehta's submission, Chidambaram's counsel Kapil Sibal said, "It's mala fide, with intent to punish me and make me suffer. I want this investigation to end.
I am not against those encyclopaedia principles. I am just saying interrogate me. You were ready to arrest me on August 20-21 but what has happened now?"
Sibal argued, "On that day, he came running to arrest me, today he only wants to confront six people. "What could I do, he was absconding. I had no other option," the Solicitor General said countering Sibal's claims.
The court reserved its order for pronouncement on Friday. The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving Rs 305 crore overseas funds in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as the Finance Minister. The ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.