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  Opinion   Interview of the Week  25 Aug 2019  ‘Persecution, not prosecution’

‘Persecution, not prosecution’

Published : Aug 25, 2019, 7:15 am IST
Updated : Aug 25, 2019, 7:15 am IST

We want to go to the Supreme Court as it is our constitutional right to challenge the order in a higher court, says Kapil.

Kapil Sibal (Photo: G.N. Jha)
 Kapil Sibal (Photo: G.N. Jha)

Former finance minister and senior Congress leader Mr P.  Chidambaram has been arrested by the CBI. The Congress and several other political parties have come out in support of him alleging excesses by the investigating agencies. Ashhar Khan spoke to his lawyer, senior Congress leader and former Union law minister Kapil Sibal who said that the government is pursuing vendetta politics and selectively targeting Opposition leaders.

We have seen the drama of Mr Chidambaram’s arrest  play out. The one question that everyone is asking is this, why was he evading the law?
What you are saying is shocking. How can he have been evading the law? You pass an order at 3:20 in the afternoon on Wednesday. We don’t immediately get a copy of the order. We want to go to the Supreme Court as it  is our constitutional right to challenge the order in a higher court. It is our right under the law. For this, we have to prepare a petition and file the petition by the next morning. So Mr Chidambaram was sitting all night with his legal team to prepare the petition. He was not running away from the country, he was not taking a flight to Kathmandu or taking a flight to the UK. He was just preparing his petition in furtherance of the rights that the law has given him. That’s not fleeing from justice. When we filed the petition the next morning, we mentioned that he was hoping that the matter would be listed but it was not. We were told at 4 pm that the Chief Justice will decide. In the meantime, because he could not get his day in court, Mr Chidambaram and all of us decided that he should come to a press briefing at the AICC headquarters. We all travelled home with him and the CBI was free to come. In fact, I am disturbed to note that sections of the media in this country have an agenda. How can they possibly make allegations of fleeing from the law against a man who has been the home and finance ministers of this country and has been in public life for 40 years?

They say that on the day  the judgment of the high court rejecting his anticipatory bail arrived, the CBI went to Mr Chidambaram’s house and pasted a notice because he was not to be found. Your comments.
That was at 12 o’ clock in the night. Have you ever heard of somebody pasting a notice in the house of a person they want to interrogate at midnight and it is written on that notice, appear in two hours? So what does the CBI and the media want? That the moment a high court rejects somebody’s anticipatory bail application, he must surrender? Now on that yardstick, all BJP leaders whose bail was rejected in the high court should have surrendered before they went to the Supreme Court. Many very prominent leaders of the BJP went to the Supreme Court and got bail one year after their bail was rejected by the high court. They did not surrender. But the BJP did not raise the issue.

On Wednesday when the order of the high court came, you moved the Supreme Court via oral mentioning only. Was it the proper thing to do?
Many a time, in my last 40-45 years of practice, matters have been mentioned orally in court. Many a time, we have had to move court when judgments were not readily available, especially in the days there was no internet, or had not been uploaded to the net. Many a time, lawyers have got the courts to even give an order by persuading them that there is urgency and the person needs to be protected. But in this case we were not seeking an order. We only wanted the matter to be listed for hearing. It is a much lesser objective than getting an ex parte order. The learned solicitor general also has got several orders in front of me without filing a petition and merely on the basis of oral mentioning, saying that that the petitions will be filed today. I am not complaining. All that I am saying is that a citizen in this country who is being prosecuted or persecuted is entitled to have his day in court and there should be no impediments placed on it, that’s all.

On the entire optics, don’t you think the Congress was put on the back foot because one of its leaders was arrested in such a fashion?
On the contrary, the Congress got to show the public the kind of vendetta politics being played against it. The Congress is united. This is persecution and not prosecution. This government is targeting all Opposition leaders who are speaking against it. This is an issue of liberty and civil liberties. Criminal law is being misused to target people against whom they have no evidence.

The agencies say that there is enough evidence available to them, and Mr Chidambaram is being evasive and fleeing from the law.
It’s an allegation only. Allegation is not evidence. Evidence is when you prove a matter in a court of law. First there is an FIR, then there is a chargesheet. In this case there is no chargesheet by the CBI till date.

But the agencies say that there is an approver in the case and it is Indrani Mukerjea. Your comments.
That’s not the charge sheet. Indrani Mukerjea gave a statement saying that Mr Chidambaram had said that you help Karti and then Karti had asked for, say x, amount. She doesn’t say whether and how the x amount was given, if at all it was. She said that one Peter Mukerjea was there  when the meeting was taking place, as well as some other people. Peter Mukerjea has not supported Indrani. So the best evidence of the CBI is the statement of a murder accused who says her daughter was her sister and she is being prosecuted for her murder. This is the best the CBI can produce and it is oral in nature. Can any court of law accept this as evidence? It is shocking.

But, as many say, why are the CBI and other investigating agencies only going after Opposition leaders?
Isn’t that obvious? Have they targeted leaders of the BJP or leaders of the parties that have been supporting them? Are they raiding them? This government knows the kind of money that is going around in their elections. This is not a black money mukt  Bharat anymore. It is a Bharat which is swimming with black money.

Tags: kapil sibal, chidambaram