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Chidambaram’s plea for relief in SC today; Singhvi, Sibal prep strategy

With the special court giving the Central Bureau of Investigation, custody of former union minister P Chidambaram till August 26 so that it can interrogate him over the INX Media case, his legal team is expected to use the opportunity they have in the Supreme Court on Friday to seek remedy for him and also protection from arrest by the Enforcement Directorate.

Chidambaram was arrested late on Wednesday night after the Delhi High Court on Tuesday rejected his pre-arrest bail . His legal team desperately sought to have the Supreme Court hear the matter on Tuesday and Wednesday but failed. Chidambaram then made an appearance at the Congress HQ and made a statement. He was arrested by CBI shortly after. The ED is yet to arrest him.

On Friday, the court is expected to hear a special leave petition—filed before he was arrested– in which Chidambaram had contested the high court’s decision to reject pre-arrest bail on grounds that there was no allegation that the petitioner is likely to flee justice, influence witnesses or tamper with the evidence.

Ace lawyers and Congress members Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi will appear for Chidambaram in the Supreme Court on Friday to seek remedy in the CBI case and an interim protection in the ED case. “The Delhi High Court order has two sides, related to the ED and the CBI. He might have been arrested by the CBI, but we will still seek interim protection from Enforcement Directorate and try to set aside the Delhi High Court order that refused to grant Chidambaram anticipatory bail,” said Singhvi.

There is a significant reason why Singhvi and Sibal wants interim protection from ED. According to people familiar with the matter, they want to thwart the possibility of Chidambaram being picked up by ED even when he is granted bail in the CBI case. “Such things happen quite often. So, we have to be cautious and pre-empt any such move,” said a Congress leader who asked not to be named. “The matter is listed and we will argue it out. Even if we lose the case in SC, this is not the end of the road. This is mere police custody. When this custody ends on August 26, we will again seek regular bail for him,” said Singhvi.

Sibal too, has geared up for a legal fight in the Supreme Court. “We will argue. This is a very serious matter if you look at it from the prism of civil liberty,” he said on Thursday.

While some legal experts say Chidambaram’s SLP has now become infructuous as he has been taken into custody by CBI, Congress leaders point out that the SLP was filed much before the arrest took place and not otherwise. So, there is still a possibility to argue the petition, they added. The usual norm for the SC has been to send the petitioners seeking bail to an appropriate court.

Singhvi lashed out at the “cheap stunt” of CBI officers scaling a wall to enter Chidambaram’s house because the gate was closed. “The CBI guys were in touch with one of my junior lawyers, who was at Chidambaram’s house. They could have just given him a call and he would have opened the gate. In fact, when we came back from the Congress office, we also had to wait for a few minutes outside and called him before the gate could open be opened. There was no need to climb the wall to catch the attention of TV cameras,” he said.

Congress leaders said that while the former minister had to spend a night in CBI custody, he showed no sign of discomfort or of being under pressure. “After our SLP could not be heard in the Supreme Court, we were certain either CBI or ED would come looking for Chidambaram. So, mentally, everyone was prepared,” added Singhvi.