The Supreme Court today granted interim protection from arrest till August 26 to former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
"We are inclined to continue his interim protection in the Enforcement Directorate. He had interim protection from arrest before as well," a bench headed by Justice R Banumathi said.
Chidambaram’s counsel also challenged a trial court order awarding four-day CBI custody during the hearing of the anticipatory bail plea moved by him in two cases connected to INX media. Both the cases will be listed on Monday before the Supreme Court bench.
Meanwhile, in an significant development, nearly 140 lawyers of the Supreme Court have written a letter to the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) asking it to protest the denial of an urgent hearing of Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail petition on Wednesday, saying that the “rule of law was in peril”.
“We, the members of the Supreme Court Bar, express our deep concern at the manner in which matters relating to life and liberty of citizens are being dealt with by the judiciary. The Founders of the Constitution could never have imagined that the Supreme Court could deny urgent and immediate listing upon mentioning of a matter relating to senior most member of the Bar, P Chidambaram. He is a member of the bar with more than 40 years of experience, 35 years out of which he has been a Senior Advocate,” the letter said.
“If normal procedure of urgent listing is not followed, the edifice of our Constitutional processes would be slowly dismantled. The denial of urgent listing in a matter of anticipatory bail of senior member of the bar leads us to conclude that the rule of law and democracy are in peril,” it added.
The letter called upon SCBA to pass a resolution as well as take up the matter with the Chief Justice of India.
The move was confirmed by Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, one of the signatories of the letter. Speaking to National Herald, Hegde expressed anguish that Chidambaram’s matter was not taken up by citation of procedures etc in the court. “This amounted to a violation of his fundamental rights as a citizen of the country,” he said.
“The second Chief Justice of India Patanjali Sastri had famously said that judges are supposed to a ‘sentinel on the qui vive’, a French term for being alert and being very watchful. It seems this principle was not quite adhered to,” he added.