Chidambaram prefer house arrest than Thihar jail

Facing the prospect of being sent to Tihar jail later in the evening, former finance minister P Chidambaram’s legal team today made a strong pitch in the Supreme Court to place the veteran Congress leader under house arrest or let him stay in CBI custody.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, who was representing the 73-year-old politician, told a bench led by Justice R Banumathi that his petition against the CBI remand would become infructuous if the Delhi Court sends him to Tihar jail at the end of his CBI custody later in the day.

Sibal had started his arguments on Chidambaram’s petition against the CBI remand but before he could continue, the bench made it clear that he should approach the subordinate court first for regular bail. Sibal insisted on being heard, telling the top court that the former minister couldn’t be sent to Tihar jail at his age. He will turn 74 later this month.

Sibal, who is also a senior Congress leader, asked the court to give him bail till his petition against the CBI remand is heard or place him under house arrest. When Justice Banumathi stayed firm that the competent court dealing with the case should hear the bail plea, Sibal prayed for placing the former minister under house arrest. “Justice has to be done at some level,” Sibal pleaded.

At one point when Justice Banumathi indicated that the court would hear the petition on September 5 – when the bench rules on Chidambaram’s petition for anticipatory bail – Sibal made another pitch.

“All I want is house arrest for the moment… And if on September 5, the (CBI) notice is found to be correct, then he can go back (to jail). No prejudice is being caused to anybody. If no relief is given, then the appeal will be infructuous,” he argued.

Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj opposed the request for house arrest, underscoring that there was no provision for a house arrest in law. Also, he questioned the assumption that Chidambaram would be sent to Tihar jail today asserting that the CBI could seek further custody.

In her order, Justice Banumathi noted that Chidambaram had been in police custody for 12 days and had not been sent to judicial custody. She initially ordered Chidambaram to approach the court concerned but later, on Sibal’s repeated requests, left the window of opportunity open for Chidambaram. The judge ruled that Chidambaram could seek the lower court for interim bail. If this petition was rejected, the court should extend his CBI custody for 3 days till the next date of hearing.

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