New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed Karti Chidambaram to approach the Delhi High Court for interim relief in the INX Media money laundering case and allowed him to withdraw his plea before it, a move vehemently opposed by ED on the ground that it would set a "bad precedent" for others.
The top court requested the acting Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court to allocate Karti's matter to an appropriate bench so that it can be taken up for hearing on Friday.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra passed the order on Karti's plea despite strong opposition from Enforcement Directorate that the plea should not be allowed to be withdrawn but heard and disposed of.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta vehemently opposed the contention of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Karti, that he should be allowed to withdraw the writ petition and approach the high court for the interim relief.
Sibal also sought one week's interim protection from arrest by Enforcement Directorate in the case till the time the
high court disposes of the matter.
"Allowing the petitioner to withdraw and approach the high court by Supreme Court will send a wrong signal to all those who are facing money laundering case. There will be 50 petitions next day. What message we will be sending to others," Mehta said.
He said it will set a bad precedent for others to first approach apex court by way of writ petitions seeking interim protection and then seek permission to move the High Court with an urgent hearing facility.
The bench, which also comprised Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, asked Mehta as "What if Karti is arrested by ED as soon as he is released by CBI from its custody?"
"He himself says he is not a 'common criminal'. But I ask myself what do common criminals do when released in one case and fear arrest in the other case. They apply for anticipatory bail. It is his constitutional right," Mehta said, adding that the court may quash the proceedings if it so wished, but it should not allow him to withdraw the petition.