The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the CBI if it was willing to share “the incriminating material” with Karti Chidambaram, son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, in a bribery case involving INX Media. The “incriminating material” was allegedly recovered by the CBI during questioning of Karti and has been furnished to the apex court in a sealed cover.
The case against Karti pertains to an FIR lodged by the CBI on May 15, alleging irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media, which was then run by Peter Mukherjea and his wife Indrani Mukherjea, for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007.
While INX Media had approval for foreign investment worth Rs 4.62 crore, it managed to raise around Rs 305 crore in 2007 through “influence in the finance ministry”, when P Chidambaram was the finance minister, according to the CBI.
The CBI told the bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, that Karti had “tampered” with evidence relating to an alleged bribery case against him during his visits abroad after the Lookout Circular (LOC) was issued to him on June 16.
Additional Solicitior General Tushar Mehta, on behalf of the CBI, told the apex court that there was a need to continue the LOC against Karti as he had the “potential” to tamper with the evidence.
“The LOC has two purposes. First, considering the investigation, he (Karti) may not become an outlaw and second, he can tamper with the evidence outside India,” he said, adding that “contemporaneous official records” reflect his actions and “these are not based on statements by people.”
“If he is permitted to go out of India, he will return. He may return, I presume” Mehta said, adding that during the CBI raids, incriminating documents relating to seizure of crores of rupees surfaced.
Justifying continuance of a lookout notice issued against Karti, he said that it was necessary to prevent him from travelling abroad as he was closing his multiple foreign bank accounts and transferring funds from them.
However, senior counsel Kapil Sibal, representing Karti, questioned the way in which CBI was seeking to place on record certain documents in a sealed cover. He insisted that in a civil case, the prosecution can’t submit such records in a sealed cover without serving it to the other side. He even objected to referring Karti as accused, saying “he is accused of an offence only” at this stage.
The SC also allowed Mehta to seek instructions on whether the division bench of the Madras High Court can be asked to decide the pending matter related to the validity of the LOC. The court posted the matter for further hearing on October 9. The CBI had registered the FIR against Karti on May 15 and had issued notice on June 15 asking Karti to appear before the investigating officer on June 29. The investigative agency had then on June 16 issued the LOC. The LOCs were also issued against the three directors of Advantage Strategic Consulting, the company which had received the kickbacks on behalf of Karti.
The CBI had challenged the Madras High Court order of August 10 which put on hold the implementation of LOC issued by the Bureau of Immigration against the businessman. The HC had stayed the LOC issued against Karti and four others, holding that they were prima facie “unwarranted”.