New Delhi: Over hundred senior Supreme Court Bar Association members have flayed the manner in which former Union finance minister P Chidambaram, himself a senior member of the association, was denied urgent listing in the matter regarding his anticipatory bail.
In the statement signed on Friday, about 140 senior lawyers, such as Chander Uday Singh, R K Rathore, Siddharth Luthra, Jayant Bhushan, Sanjay Hegde, Meenakshi Arora, Imtiaz Ahmed, Harin P Raval, Jaideep Gupta, Rajeev Dhavan, R Basant among others , said the events as they unfolded leads them to “conclude that the rule of law and democracy are in peril,” says a report by LiveLaw.
The statement, addressed to the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association , dated (posted on the LiveLaw website) August 22, reads: “If normal procedure of urgent listing is not followed, the edifice of our constitution would be slowly dismantled,” adding that “ as members of the bar, we expect an even-handed approach of the Hon’ble Court.”
Without commenting on the merits of the case, the senior advocates said they were “disappointed that even a hearing was denied to him when in cases of protecting personal liberty, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has been very proactive.”
Pointing out that Chidambaram has been a member of the association for 35 years, the letter has urged the association to pass a resolution to this effect and take up the matter with the Chief Justice of India on “an urgent basis”.
The senior advocates also expressed their deep concern at “the manner in which matters related to the life and liberty of citizens are being dealt with by the judiciary.”
In the report, LiveLaw pointed out that one of Chidambaram’s lawyers, Kapil Sibal, a senior advocate had twice mentioned the matter of urgent hearing of the petition before Justice Ramana on Wednesday, once in the morning and then at 2 p.m.
However, the SC registry later informed Chidambaram’s lawyers that the matter had been posted for hearing on Friday.
Chidambaram, a senior advocate himself, is at present in five-day custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CB) in the INX Media case. He was arrested after a big drama on Wednesday night, after two key accused in the case – Peter Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea – turned government approvers. It may be recalled that Indrani Mukerjea herself is accused of murdering her own daughter, Sheena Bora, and has been in jail.
The former finance minister is facing allegations of committing irregularities and money laundering while in power in the INX Media case as well as the Aircel Maxis case, and is being probed both by the Enforcement Directorate as well as the CBI
INX Media: SC Grants Interim Protection in ED Case
On Friday, the Supreme Court granted Chidambaram protection from in the money laundering case lodged by the ED in the INX Media case. However, he will continue to be in custody as the apex court did not intervene in the CBI case.
A bench comprising justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna posted both the matters for hearing on Monday, August 26, according to a PTI report.
The hearing witnessed heated exchange of words between prosecution counsel and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and senior advocate and Chidambaram's party colleagues Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi.
Mehta vehemently opposed the order granting protection from arrest to Chidambaram in the money laundering case registered by the ED.
The apex court was hearing two separate petitions filed by Chidambaram challenging the Delhi High Court August 20 verdict by which his anticipatory bail was dismissed in the cases registered by both the agencies-- CBI and ED.
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 overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as the finance minister.
Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2018.
According to PTI, on Friday, a Delhi court refused to adjourn the Aircel-Maxis case till Tuesday on pleas by CBI, ED which sought adjournment saying that the INX Media case pending before the SC, and extended protection from arrest to Chidambaram till September 3 in the Aircel Maxis case.