Journalist asks CJI to suspend senior designation of P. Chidambaram and his wife.

 

NEW DELHI: ‘Who is Karti? Karti Chidambaram, you are saying? Let him stay where he is. We have more important matters to decide… We are not interested. File an application explaining your reasons… It is 10.30 (am) and you are out of turn.” These were the words of the highly respected Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday when senior counsel K.V. Vishwanathan pleaded him for an urgent hearing on Karti’s request to allow him to travel abroad. Karti is on bail in the INX Media money-laundering case and needs to take the Supreme Court’s permission whenever he wants to go on a foreign jaunt.

In November last year too, Karti had sought an urgent hearing to let him travel abroad. “Don’t go… Stay back in India,” Justice Gogoi had told him then. The court had allowed him in July to travel to UK, France and the US for about a week. When he returned to the court for permission to travel abroad again in November, the court made it clear that the matter did not deserve an out-of-turn hearing. This time, the Bench was even harsher when Karti approached it for the same yet again.

Simultaneously, his father donning black gown while appearing in a trial court as an accused in the Aircel-Maxis case is proving costly for his lawyer parents Palaniappan and Nalini  Chidambaram. The former Union minister and his wife are facing major embarrassment as Justice Gogoi has been petitioned challenging their “status” in the court. A senior journalist has written to the CJI seeking suspension of the couple’s “senior advocate” designations for “misusing their legal position”. In his two-page letter, Delhi-based journalist J. Gopikrishnan, a Special Correspondent with the Pioneer, pointed out that P. Chidambaram appeared in the trial court on 11 January 2019 wearing a senior advocate’s attire. “It is really unethical for a senior advocate title holding person to appear in a trial court in senior advocate’s dress where he is an accused. Here Chidambaram appeared as an accused while his advocates (Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi) were arguing for him,” read the letter. Gopikrishnan also pointed to the 2G court headed by Judge O.P. Saini. He wrote, “He (P. Chidambaram) got interim protection from arrest, a few days after Supreme Court’s 2G Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra ordered CBI and ED on 12 March 2018 to finish the probe in the Aircel-Maxis case in six months, where Chidambaram is the main accused.”

The correspondent has also mentioned that the senior Congress leader has received this protection seven times from the Judge Saini-headed court. He said Chidambaram is “enjoying” the interim protection which was obtained directly from the Delhi High Court without approaching the Patiala House court.

Raising the case of Nalini Chidambaram, who was chargesheeted by a trial court in Kolkata in the Saradha scam, Gopikrishnan explained that she was able to obtain an interim protection from arrest from the Madras High Court, which was followed by another interim protection by the Egmore Metropolitan Magistrate court.

The letter said that she was  also facing prosecution by the Income Tax department under the Black Money Act. “How can investigating agencies and judges work freely when an accused is a senior advocate title holding person?” he asked and requested the Chief Justice to suspend the couple’s designations until the trials against them were concluded.

Gopikrishnan also suggested that a system be put in place wherein all the senior advocates file affidavits annually mentioning the cases against them and the nature of such cases.

What decision the CJI will take on the scribe’s plea will be known in the coming days, but one thing is sure that after dominating the political-legal scene in the country for almost one-and-half decades, for the first time, the Chidambarams must be feeling the heat from the long arms of law and experiencing their predominance gradually wearing away.

Things will be clearer when senior Chidambaram will appear in the court on 24 January for the next hearing of the INX Media case.