The Madras High Court has directed the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) to keep in abeyance the summons issued to Nalini Chidambaram, senior advocate and wife of former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
On Wednesday, the court directed the Enforcement Directorate to not proceed further on its summons till further orders. Instead, it asked her to appear before the court in connection with its money-laundering probe in the Saradha chit fund scam.
Justice T.S. Sivagnanam passed the interim direction while admitting two petitions moved by Nalini Chidambaram assailing the summons issued by the ED for receiving Rs. 1 crore from Saradha Realty India Limited, a company of the Saradha Group, which is stuck in the Saradha Chit Fund scam.
According to the petitioner, Manoranjana Sinh of GNN Pvt. Ltd. in Guwahati and Sudipto Sen of Bengal Media Pvt. Ltd. in Kolkata, entered into an agreement in June 2010 to take over Positive TV, a television channel, and its group of companies, run by GNN. As part of the agreement, Sudipto Sen agreed to fund the legal expenses of Manoranjana Sinh in contesting cases against her husband pending before the Company Law Board, New Delhi, and the Delhi High Court.
Since the petitioner was representing the cases on behalf of Ms. Manoranjana Sinh, Sudipto Sen has paid the professional fees from time to time, which amounted to Rs. 1 crore.
Noting that the professional fees thus received were accounted for and applicable income tax was paid, senior counsel for the petitioner said, “If summons are to be issued in such cases, then every lawyer who deals with criminal cases involving economic offences would be under the threat of being exposed to the provisions of the PMLA.”
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 Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), a woman could not be summoned by the police and the inquiry had to be conducted at her residence.