The Supreme Court on Friday directed Karti Chidambaram, son of former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, to appear before the CBI in New Delhi on August 23 in a matter relating to alleged irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media in 2007.
A bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud said Karti Chidambaram will "carry with him all the necessary documents (that he may rely) in his defence keeping in mind the allegations in the FIR".
This direction came after the CBI insisted that his questioning would take place in Delhi and not in Chennai as was sought by Karti Chidambram, who contended that all the documents relating to the matter were in Chennai.
The court granted Karti Chidambram the liberty to be accompanied by a lawyer who will be sitting in the room adjoining to one where he would be quizzed by the CBI.
The court directed him to go to CBI after responding to a poser from the bench whether his "submission is that you are so clean that you will not appear for questioning", senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Karti Chidambaram said: "I have not said so. There is no unwillingness on my part not to appear ..."
As Chief Justice Khehar asked if Karti Chidambaram wanted to appear or not, Subramanium said his client wanted "protection, a lawyer (sitting) within a hearing distance (from the place of quizzing)" and was ready to appear on Friday itself.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, however opposed the plea for the presence of a lawyer within hearing distance.
"There are materials that we got in the searches that we want to confront" Karti Chidambram with, he told the bench.
Mehta also resisted suggestion from the bench that the investigating agency can question Karti Chidambram on a day-to-day basis, even twice a day, for seven days and thereafter the lookout circular aimed to prevent him from flying out of the country would expire.
"You will call him on August 23. Call him every day, even twice a day. This lookout circular will expire after seven days. What is the purpose of this lookout circular? The day he complies with the requirement and answers your questions," said Chief Justice Khehar.
Seeking a year's life for the lookout notice, Mehta said: "The justification (to keep alive lookout circular) is that he should not leave the country till investigation is over. Five other people are there (to be investigated). The investigation is at a very very initial stage."
Apparently unimpressed, the bench said: "At the end of the investigation you may not find any material or you may find something. Then why should you have a lookout circular... today you (CBI) have no material. It is just suspicion".
But Mehta countered this, telling the bench that "there are other ways of securing his presence. This (lookout notice) is a softer way than other statutory remedies".
Subramanium, on the other hand, told the bench that lookout notice is issued when an accused is a fugitive and running away from law.