Temporary relief for Nalini Chidambaram as HC restrains ED

Chennai, Sep 22: In an interim relief to senior advocate Nalini Chidambaram, wife of former Union minister P Chidambaram, the Madras High Court today directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) not to proceed further on its summons, asking her to appear before it in connection with its money-laundering probe in the Saradha chit fund scam till further orders.

Passing the order on Nalini's petition, seeking quashing of the last ED summons dated September 7, issued under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Justice TS Sivagnanam said the court was inclined to grant the interim relief as not doing so would render the writ plea "infructuous".

Nalini Chidambaram

The judge directed the Assistant Director, ED, Kolkata not to proceed further, pursuant to the impugned order (summons) and said the matter shall be kept in abeyance until further orders.

The matter relates to the "professional fee" of Rs one crore, paid to Nalini by Saradha Group chairman Sudipto Sen for her appearance in a Delhi court and the Company Law Board (CLB) on behalf of former Union minister Matang Singh's wife Manoranjana, over a deal involving the purchase of three television channels.

Sen had paid the fee as part of an agreement between him and Manoranjana. The ED had issued the summons to Nalini, asking her to appear before it on September 29. Alleging "political" reasons behind it, Nalini's counsel had pointed out in court that the CBI had already filed a chargesheet in the Saradha chit fund scam before a court in West Bengal and her name did not figure in it either as an accused or a witness. Yet, she was summoned by the ED.

Contending that the professional fee was received before the scam came to light, Nalini had submitted that as per section 160 of the CrPC, a woman could not be summoned by the police and the inquiry had to be conducted at her residence.

Appearing for the ED, Assistant Solicitor General G Rajagopalan had submitted that the matter was only in the stage of summons and mere summoning itself could not be assumed as the person had been made an accused. In today's order, the judge said, "This court is of the considered view that the respondent (ED) should file counter affidavits, not only meeting the factual allegations made, but also the legal contentions raised."

Referring to Nalini's objection to summoning a woman to the police station, he said it had to be examined if the provisions of the CrPC or that of the PMLA would prevail in the light of certain judgments cited by both the sides. The judge directed the ED to file its counter within four weeks and posted the matter to November 8.

PTI

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