The CBI on Friday told the Supreme Court that there are “good cogent reason” for issuance of lookout circulars (LOC) against Karti Chidambaram, son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, and others in connection with a corruption case involving media house INX Media. While placing documents in a sealed cover, additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the investigative agency, told a bench led by chief justice Dipak Mishra that Karti’s case “is not as simple as what is being told but involves a number of companies, jugglery of accounts and properties abroad.” The CBI arguments came after Karti in his fresh affidavit stated there were no legal basis to continue the impugned LOC against him. “LOC is a serious encroachment on the fundamental right of a person to travel abroad.
The power to issue LOC should be exercised only in the rarest of rare cases…”, he said, while urging the apex court to dismiss the CBI’s appeal “so that justice may be done.” Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Karti, accused the CBI of giving live updates to media during and after Karti’s questioning and falsely spreading stories that “I (Karti) was not cooperating with them.” He said that during Karti’s seven-hour questioning by the CBI on August 23, he answered more than 100 questions. Even when he was called for questioning on August 28, he was questioned for two hours but was kept waiting for seven hours. Karti was questioned in connection with a case involving alleged kickbacks paid by media house INX Media for obtaining clearance from then Foreign Investment Promotion Board for receiving overseas funds.
The CBI has alleged that Karti received kickbacks amounting to Rs 3.5 crore from INX media in exchange for allowing them to raise foreign investment. While INX Media, which was then run by Peter Mukherjea and his wife Indrani Mukherjea, had approval for foreign investment worth Rs 4.62 crore, it had managed to raise around `305 crore in 2007 through “influence in the finance ministry.” At that time, P Chidambaram was the finance minister, according to the CBI. “Karti doesn’t have even a single UBS account or properties all over abroad as claimed by the CBI. He has only 0.75% listed shares. And he has bought a property from his, his mother’s and wife’s money in Cambridge for her daughter’s education there,” Subramanium said.
He also raised the issue that till now, not even a single FIPB member had been examined. “Despite depreciable conduct of the CBI, which was aimed solely at embarrassing me, and the fact that the apex court had only ordered me to appear for questioning on August 23, I made myself available for further questioning on August 28. I answered all the questions that were posed to me to the best of my knowledge and ability,” Karti said in his affidavit. He further said he had given a list of documents to the CBI which include a list of bank accounts, a list of companies in which his family members and he are shareholders and directors and also details of the assets held by him and his family members.
After a 20-minute hearing, the top court asked the CBI to respond to the affidavit filed by Karti in connection with his questioning. It also made clear that Karti and others cannot leave India till September 11, the next date of hearing. Three suspected associates of Karti – Bhaskar Raman, Ravi Vishwanathan and Mohanan Rakesh – were also refused permission to go abroad. Mohanan wanted permission to travel abroad for his son’s admission. Last week, the Madras High Court had rejected Karti’s petition to quash a CBI FIR in the bribery case. The high court informed Karti that he would have to take his petition to the Delhi High Court, as the case does not come under the jurisdiction of the Madras High Court. The court maintained that the Delhi High Court has territorial jurisdiction in this case. The Madras High Court had earlier in August stayed the LOC issued against Karti and four others.