NEW DELHI: Former finance minister P Chidambaram was picked up from his private residence here on Wednesday night by the CBI and later formally arrested, capping a day-long drama that started with a battery of lawyers knocking at the doors of the Supreme Court seeking anticipatory bail for him.
The CBI is expected to produce him on Thursday before a designated CBI special court, where it is likely to seek his remand for further questioning.
But, with the Supreme Court declining to immediately hear the matter and posting it for Friday, the former minister turned up at the Congress headquarters after a 24-hour hiatus where, flanked by his party colleagues Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ahmed Patel and Salman Khurshid, he played the victim card.
Before he was taken away by a team of CBI officials, scenes at his 115A Jor Bagh residence resembled an action film with sleuths scaling the almost six-foot boundary wall to arrest him in connection with the INX Media scam.
"Mr P Chidambaram has been arrested in connection with INX media case," a senior official of the agency said.
Moments later, a team of the Enforcement Directorate, too, arrived. There was even a minor scuffle as Congress workers gathered there tried to prevent ED and CBI officials from entering the house.
By that time, Chidambaram had already left for his residence 115-A in Jorbagh, a 10-minute distance from the party office, in a luxury sedan accompanied with his lawyers and party colleagues -- Singhvi and Sibal.
With a big media contingent beaming live images of the developments, the CBI team first knocked the gates to gain entry but finding no response, they nimbly scaled the nearly five-ft high walls to gain entry.
Once three officers reached inside, they opened the gates to allow entry to other team members waiting outside.
Soon a team of officers, identifying themselves as from ED, too arrived at the scene.
A team of about two dozen officials remained on guard at the bungalow when Chidambaram was inside with Sibal and Singhvi.
After his arrest at his residence, the former minister was taken to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where a medical examination was done, sources said.
Chidambaram has been lodged in suit No. 5 of the CBI Guest House on the ground floor of the agency HQ.
After completing arrest formalities, the CBI team had to wade through Congress supporters who had gathered outside raising slogans against the agency.
Some supporters jumped on the white car in which Chidambaram was being taken to the agency headquarters.
Delhi Police personnel were also posted to prevent any adverse law and order situation.
After his presser, a team of CBI officials rushed to his house and scaled the walls to enter the building. The Enforcement Directorate and Delhi police too reached his house to cordon off the area.
The anticipatory bail plea he sought to move in the Supreme Court is now infructuous. Chidambaram can only seek regular bail.
Earlier, addressing the media at the Congress headquarters, Chidambaram said, “I believe that the foundation of a democracy is liberty. The most precious Article of the Constitution of India is Article 21 that guarantees life and liberty. If I am asked to choose between life and liberty, I shall unhesitatingly choose liberty. Why are the years up to 1947 called the years of freedom struggle? Because, to win freedom, we must struggle. To preserve freedom too, we must struggle.”
Flanked by senior Supreme Court lawyers and party colleagues Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Chidambaram said he was working with his lawyers through the last night, preparing his papers for his bail application, which was filed before the Supreme Court earlier.
According to sources, the party high command wanted him to make a public appearance to dispel negative perceptions over his going underground.
In the INX Media case, Chidambaram is accused of facilitating foreign investment in a media company when he was the Finance Minister at the instance of his son Karti Chidambaram, who is accused of receiving kickbacks. Both the father and son have denied any wrongdoing.
The agency had been seeking Chidambaram's "custodial interrogation" in the case pertaining to alleged irregularities in the grant of foreign investment clearances to INX Media when he was the finance minister.
They said Chidambaram was summoned last year for questioning in the case but he remained evasive in his responses.
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 finance minister.
Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2018.
(With inputs from agencies)