Days after SC rap on his knuckles, Karti faced six-hour interrogation by ED on Thursday while Chidambaram Senior too was grilled for five hours the next day.
NEW DELHI: Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Palaniappan Chidambaram and his son Karti seem to be running out of luck these days. While the Supreme Court hearing his plea has minced no words in reining in the junior, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) probing into Aircel-Maxis and INX Media money-laundering cases is hounding the father-son duo day in day out. The investigating agency sleuths grilled the senior Chidambaram for five hours on Friday, a day after they interrogated the son for six long hours.
While hearing his plea last week, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi did allow Karti to go abroad but used strong language in warning him against taking the law lightly and also asked him to “end his non-cooperation” with ED. “You can go wherever you want to, you can do whatever you want, but don’t play around with the law. If there is an iota of non-cooperation, (we) will come down heavily (on you),” Justice Gogoi told Karti curtly.
When his counsel K.V. Vishwanathan told the Bench that Karti had been cooperating with the probe, the CJI quipped, “We know you are not cooperating. We do not wish to say anything if you do not cooperate and fail to appear. Only God can help you. We remind you, don’t play around with the law.”
The court allowed him to tour abroad from 10 to 26 February. The Bench, however, categorically instructed Karti to appear before the ED on 5, 6, 7 and 12 March for the next round of questioning and asked him to deposit Rs 10 crore as security before leaving the country. He is expected to travel abroad again from 23 to 31 March.
Karti had approached the court seeking permission to travel to France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom for the next few months for international tennis tournaments organised by a company called “Totus Tennis Ltd” having its registered office in Britain.
However, the ED is opposed to such pleas that claim that Karti needs to travel abroad as he is associated with tennis as a “former player, current administrator and entrepreneur”.
Representing the ED, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta told the court that frequent trips by the petitioner are coming in the way of the probe into the two cases involving him.
On earlier occasions also, the ED had informed the court how Karti’s frequent overseas jaunts were delaying the probe beyond its deadline and how he was misusing the liberty granted to him by the court for evading questioning. Mehta had also submitted that the Apex Court’s permission was “blatantly and brazenly hampering, subverting, jeopardising and protracting” the investigation pending against him on the pretext of his non-availability in the country.
Appearing before the Bench during an earlier hearing, ED Deputy Director Rajeev Sharma had apprised the court of Karti’s “non-cooperation” during interrogations. “Whenever he (Karti) was confronted with the documents, he showed his irritation, sometimes anger and then conveniently avoided answering the questions on one pretext or the other,” Sharma had informed the court.
The ED had also submitted before the Bench on another occasion that “Karti has filed as many applications as possible in various fora under different jurisdictions, trying to create an illusion of being a victim of political vendetta and also in the garb of exhausting his constitutional remedies to protect his fundamental rights.”
The senior Chidambaram too used the same alibi when he appeared before the agency on Friday claiming that this is “an instance of political vendetta” against him by the present ruling dispensation. The agency has questioned the Chidambarams in these cases for a number of times in the past and sought their custody, but the court has granted them interim protection from arrest keeping the father-son duo out of the bounds of law so far.