CHENNAI: The Madras High Court today reserved its orders on an appeal by former union minister P Chidambaram's wife Nalini over dismissal of her plea against ED summons in the Saradha chit fund scam case and exempted her from appearance before the agency till it delivered the judgement.
A bench of justices M M Sundresh and Anand Venkatesh reserved orders and gave the interim relief after hearing arguments by senior counsel K T S Tulsi for the appellant and Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan and Special Public Prosecutor G Hema for the Enforcement Directorate.
In the appeal, Nalini had challenged the April 24 order of Justice S M Subramaniam rejecting her petition against ED's summons asking her to appear as a witness in its money laundering probe in the Saradha chit fund scam case.
Consequent to the single judge order, the ED had issued fresh summons asking Nalini, a senior advocate herself, to appear before its office in Kolkata tomorrow.
The ED had issued the first summons on September 7, 2016, asking Nalini to appear before it in its Kolkata office.
She was allegedly paid a legal fee of Rs 1 crore by the Saradha group for her appearances in court and the Company Law Board over a television channel purchase deal.
She had moved the high court challenging the summons on the ground that women cannot be called for investigation out of their place of residence under CrPC section 160.
But, Justice Subramaniam rejected her contention, saying such exemptions are not mandatory and are subject to facts and circumstances of a case, following which she filed the appeal.
In the appeal, she contended that if the trend of summoning and calling advocates who have been engaged by their clients for rendering professional services was not nipped in the bud, it may lead to "disastrous consequences".
When the appeal came up hearing today, Tulsi submitted that Section 160 applied to all the women and assailed the single judge's reasoning.
Intervening, the bench sought to know what was the apprehension of the appellant in appearing before the authorities.
Tulsi submitted that the ED action was "purely political vendetta" as no other advocate who had appeared for the Sharadha group had been summoned.
Countering the arguments, Rajagopalan submitted that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act should be read in a holistic manner.
Sections 52, 50(2) (3) and section 71of the PMLA have the overriding effect and hence section 160 of Cr.
PC was not applicable under the PMLA, he contended.
The ASG further said Nalini had not been arrayed as an accused and was being called to appear only to explain in person the documents submitted by her legal representative.