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View: Court arrest, P Chidambaram, don’t ruin this opportunity and get labelled a fugitive

Chidambaram, the accomplished lawyer, is perfectly right when he says that there is no need to arrest him, for the investigating agencies to interrogate him.

, ET Bureau|
Aug 21, 2019, 05.55 PM IST
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P ​Chidambaram
P Chidambaram, the accomplished lawyer, is perfectly right when he says that there is no need to arrest him, for the investigating agencies to interrogate him.
P Chidambaram’s conduct is unusual for a politician. The normal reflex of a politician, in a situation of imminent arrest by a hostile government on charges that are unlikely to withstand legal scrutiny, would be to welcome imprisonment and claim the mantle of victim. Later, when the courts finally refuse to uphold the charges against him, he could victoriously claim to have been the target of a political vendetta. This would only burnish his political career and secure some additional public support.

Chidambaram, the accomplished lawyer, is perfectly right when he says that there is no need to arrest him, for the investigating agencies to interrogate him. The most often cited reason for arrest is the possible attempt by the suspect to destroy evidence. This is specious. If a suspect has not had the sense to destroy evidence for years after charges were first brought against him, he would not have the sense to conduct the crime he is charged of in the first place.

And what is the crime that Chidambaram is deemed to have committed? He is supposed to have cleared foreign direct investment proposals that he should not have, one, of Malaysian firm Maxis’s proposed investment in telecom company Aircel, and the other of INX media of Peter and Indrani Mukherjea.

Since 1991, when the economy was liberalised, one aim of economic policy at the Centre and in most states has been to invite foreign direct investment into the jurisdiction they control. Of course, the government can and should be faulted for having set all kinds of conditions and rules for such inward investment, giving the opportunity for finding fault with some investment proposal or the other, thereby creating rent-seeking opportunities.

It may be recalled that some of the misdoings by Dhirubhai Ambani, for which his rivals sought action against him, related to his company producing in excess of the permitted limit, and setting up capacity much higher than what he had been issued a licence for. Looking back, these breaches reflect badly on the rule setter rather than on the rule breaker.

In any case, if Chidambaram broke rules while clearing foreign investment proposals as finance minister, the matter should be established through investigation. And investigation would entail his interrogation. He is open to interrogation and has gone through lengthy questioning already. But for the enforcement agencies to take the position that they can frame their questions properly only when the person being questioned is under arrest is ridiculous.

And the prosecution should be able to mobilise witnesses a trifle more credible than the murder-accused Mukherjea couple. Mrs Mukherjea has turned approver and is singing a tune that is melody to the ears of the enforcement agencies, purely by coincidence, we are sure.

To arrest someone in public life and under no risk of disappearing to Antigua is needless harassment. Chidambaram should take it on the chin and seek vindication in the court, scoring added brownie points in the process that would only help him in politics.

Also Read

P Chidambaram: The controversy's child

20 questions CBI posed to Chidambaram

CBI, ED teams looking for Chidambaram

Cases against Amit Shah & Chidambaram: It is CBI that is in the dock

Chidambaram sent to Tihar jail for 14 days

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