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NEW DELHI: The CBI today justified Karti Chidambaram's arrest in the INX Media case in a Delhi court by taking the ground of his non-cooperation and frequent foreign visits, which was vehemently opposed by the defence counsel, who said his client was not summoned by the central probe agency in the last six months.
Seeking a 15-day custody of the son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, the CBI prosecutors contended before duty magistrate Sumeet Anand that Karti had not cooperated in the investigation and he had been repeatedly travelling abroad, which "confirmed the apprehensions of his tampering with the evidence lying abroad against him and others in the form of secret note received from the Ministry of Finance".
CBI prosecutors V K Sharma and Padmini Singh argued that one of the grounds for arresting Karti was that the agency had recorded the statement of Indrani Mukerjea, former director of INX Media (P) Ltd, before a magistrate on February 17, in which she had said an amount of USD 1 million was paid to Karti on behalf of INX Media at the Hyatt hotel here.
Opposing the CBI's arguments, senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Karti, said it was a "bizarre" case and that no grounds for arrest were made out.
"It is a bizarre case at the threshhold. It is not a case of arrest, leave aside police custody or judicial custody," Singhvi told the court while opposing the CBI's remand plea.
He also argued that Karti was summoned twice by the CBI on August 23 and 28 last year and that he was interrogated for 22 hours by the agency, during which he answered all the questions.
"After those two days, I have not received any single summons from the CBI. It is a 180-day silence and then they say, I am not cooperating. The fact is that they do not have anything to ask me now," Singhvi said.
Claiming that no reason was given for the arrest, he said, "It is because you (CBI) want to show it to your bosses that you are doing some work. Unlike others, I (Karti) am not a 'Hindustan leaver' and instead, I am a 'Hindustan returner'," Singhvi said, adding that Karti was cooperating with the CBI and that the court might impose any condition while releasing him from the agency's custody.
"Am I (Karti) a fugitive from justice," Singhvi, who was assisted by senior advocates Dayan Krishnan and Mohit Mathur, told the court.
The defence counsel argued that the CBI had tried to stop Karti's foreign visits, but he went abroad twice on court orders and another of his visits outside the country was prior to the issuance of the Look-Out Circular.
"Is it fair to say to the court that I am not cooperating? It is only to prejudice the court. It is a clear misrepresentation and distortion of facts by the CBI. They did not apprehend anything while I was going out, but arrested me on my return," he said.
Singhvi further said Karti had gone to the UK after taking the Madras High Court's permission and that he was ready to abide by any condition, including surrendering his passport, daily visits to the CBI office and confinement to a city.
"I am not filing any formal bail application, but opposing the remand application. They should have issued a fresh summons and test my non-cooperation, but they arrested me when I landed at the Chennai airport today at 9 am. There is no allegation of violation of any conditions imposed by the high court," the counsel argued, adding that the arrest was mala fide.
Singhvi further said it was not even an open-and-shut case, but someone struggling to open a 10-year-old case.
He told the court that Karti appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a case filed on similar allegations by the agency as late as 10 days back and that he was not a repeat offender and remanding him to police custody would add more insult to the injury.
The CBI prosecutors rebutted, saying Singhvi's arguments were false and that Karti had joined the probe only after the Supreme Court's intervention.
They said all the procedures were followed and Karti was informed about the grounds of his arrest.
They further argued that Karti had not complied with the Madras High Court's direction to give the itinerary of his stay abroad.
Regarding the defence counsel's argument that the CBI had not filed a status report in any court, claiming that Karti had not cooperated, the prosecutor said the agency was never directed by any court to file any such report.