Former Union minister P Chidambaram Monday accused the CBI and the ED of "delaying" Aircel-Maxis cases in a Delhi.court, which extended interim protection from arrest granted to him and his son Karti till March 8. The senior Congress leader, who was present in the courtroom, requested Special Judge O P Saini to grant an early hearing on his anticipatory bail applications as well as the charge sheet filed in the cases lodged by CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.
Chidambaram's party colleague and senior advocate Kapil Sibal made the submission on his behalf after the ED sought an adjournment in the matter. ED told the court that it has asked Karti Chidambaram, an accused along with his father, to appear before it on March 5, 6, 7 and 12 for questioning in the case.
"Let the matter be fixed after March 12, since he has to appear before ED on March 5, 6, 7 and 12," senior advocate Sonia Mathur, appearing for ED and the CBI, told the court. Karti was not appearing before the ED which led the Supreme Court to pass an order, asking him to make himself available before the agency, the agency's Special Public Prosecutors, N K Matta and Nitesh Rana, told the court.
Sibal opposed the submissions made by the CBI and the ED seeking an adjournment in the case and sought early hearing of his anticipatory bail application. "I (P Chidambaram) oppose the request (of ED). The agencies (ED and CBI) are delaying the matter. The charge sheet has already been filed in the case. And it is only Karti who has been summoned, so the application (anticipatory bail plea) of P Chidambaram can be entertained," the council said.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Karti, also sought an early hearing on his anticipatory bail application and the charge sheet against him by the CBI and the ED. After the submission made by both the parties, the court said, "I have been requesting both parties to expedite the matter but the date is not fixed yet. Put up the matter for March 8." The counsels for Chidambarams, thereafter, requested to extend the protection granted to them, which was allowed by the court.
The case relates to alleged irregularities in grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval in the Aircel-Maxis deal. Father-son duo had approached the court through advocates P K Dubey and Arshdeep Singh seeking anticipatory bail, claiming that they were afraid of arrest in both the cases being probed by the ED and the CBI.
Their protection from arrest has been extended from time to time. The CBI had earlier informed the court that the Centre has granted sanction to prosecute five people, including serving and former bureaucrats, accused in the Aircel-Maxis case including the Chidambarams.
The CBI had on November 16 last year informed the court that a similar nod was procured for Chidambaram. There are 18 accused in the case. Chidambaram and Karti were named in the charge sheet filed by the CBI in the case on July 19 last year. The agency filed a supplementary charge sheet before the special judge, who had fixed it for consideration on July 31.
The CBI is probing how Chidambaram, who was the Union finance minister in 2006, granted FIPB approval to a foreign firm when only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it. CBI and ED, in their replies to the anticipatory bail pleas of Chidambaram's, had recently told the court that custodial interrogation of both the accused was required since various new materials have surfaced after the filing of the charge sheet, alleging that they were not cooperating in the probe.
The father-son duo recently denied the allegations of both the agencies that they were evasive and non-cooperative during the probe in the case, and said the allegations against them were "unsubstantiated" and there was no need of their custodial interrogation. The agencies have sought the custodial interrogation of both the accused, saying they have not been cooperating and, therefore, making it difficult to complete the investigation in a time-bound manner as directed by the Supreme Court.
The senior Congress leader and his son have come under the scanner of investigating agencies in the Rs 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case involving Rs 305 crore. In its charge sheet filed earlier in the present case against former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and others, the CBI alleged that P Chidambaram granted FIPB approval in March 2006 to Mauritius-based Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of Maxis.
The Maran brothers and the other accused named in the CBI charge sheet were discharged by the special court, which said the agency had failed to produce any material against them to proceed with the trial. The ED is also probing a separate money-laundering case in the Aircel-Maxis matter, in which the Chidambaram has been questioned by the agency and their anticipatory bail is pending.
(With inputs from agencies.)