The Madras High Court will pass orders on April 17 on an Enforcement Directorate petition seeking to vacate the stay on the summons issued to Nalini Chidambaram, wife of former Union minister P Chidambaram, in connection with its money laundering probe in the Saradha chit fund scam case.
Justice S M Subramaniam today posted the petition to April 17 for passing orders after hearing the arguments of both the sides.
Earlier, in his oral observations, the judge said the summons was issued in 2016 and Nalini had gained two years by virtue of the interim stay granted by the court.
"Why cannot she appear before the ED and sort out the issue and help the investigation," he said.
The ED had on November 7, 2016, issued summons to Nalini to appear before its Kolkata office as a witness in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam.
She was allegedly paid a legal fee of Rs 1 crore by the Saradha group for her appearances in court and the Company Law Board over a television channel purchase deal.
The high court had on September 21, 2016, stayed the summons on a petition by Nalini that as per Section 160 of the CrPC a woman could not be summoned for inquiry and it has to be conducted at her residence.
Senior counsel Satish Parasaran, appearing for Nalini, today contended that section 160 clearly exempts women and men below 15 years and above 65 years from appearing for inquiry out of their place of residence.
The provision applies to the proceedings under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act also, he submitted.
He said his client had already submitted all documents and statements required by the agency through an authorised person.
"Even now, she has not approached the court to quash the summon. All that she insists is when there is a statutory protection, the agency cannot demand her personal appearance," Parasaran added.
Opposing the arguments, Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan, who appeared on behalf of the ED, submitted that the PMLA provisions empower the ED to summon any person and the Act does not require authorities to comply with section 160 of the CrPC.
He also said PMLA has overriding powers over inconsistent statues.
Justice Subramaniam intervened and said the ED authorities have their own powers and limitations.
The court can interfere only if they act excessively.
"If every woman in the country seeks protection under section 160 of the CrPC, will it be practically possible for the agencies to go to everyone of their locations to get statements, he observed orally.
Parasaran said if it was not possible, the law must be amended, which is for Parliament to decide.
He noted that as Parliament has considered women, children and senior citizens as vulnerable, as a policy, protection had been given to them under section 160 of the CrPC.