Aircel-Maxis case: Delhi HC grants time to P Chidambaram, son to reply to ED plea against anticipatory bail

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March 4, 2020 8:01 PM

The ED had earlier contended that the special judge pronounced its order granting anticipatory bail to the Chidambarams on September 5, 2019 without considering the Supreme Court's order which had come on the same day in the INX Media case.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 12. The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 12.

The Delhi High Court Wednesday granted time to former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti to respond to the Enforcement Directorate’s plea challenging their anticipatory bail in the Aircel-Maxis case. Justice Anu Malhotra allowed the oral prayer of Chidambarams’ counsel seeking more time to file the reply to ED’s plea. The court directed the Chidambarams, represented through senior advocate Dayan Krishnan and lawyer Arshdeep Singh, to file their reply within three weeks and asked the ED to place on record its rejoinder, if any, two weeks thereafter.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 12. Central government standing counsel Amit Mahajan and advocate Mallika Hiremath, representing the ED, submitted that the court had issued notice to Chidambaram and his son on October 11 last year to file response to the agency’s plea, however, they have not yet done so. The ED had earlier contended that the special judge pronounced its order granting anticipatory bail to the Chidambarams on September 5, 2019 without considering the Supreme Court’s order which had come on the same day in the INX Media case.

The probe agency had said the trial court failed to appreciate that custodial interrogation of the accused was required and its finding the offence not grave enough was completely perverse and untenable in law. It had contended that in the Aircel-Maxis case, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) the approval sought was for Rs 3,500-crore which was beyond the jurisdiction of the finance minister, still it was approved by Chidambaram. It had said the father-son duo should not be granted pre-arrest bail as some witnesses are common in the Aircel-Maxis and the INX Media cases and the investigation could be hampered.

The trial court had also granted anticipatory bail to them in the Aircel Maxis case filed by the CBI. The ED, in its plea, has contended that the pre-arrest bail in a case of economic offence was unwarranted and urged the high court to set aside the trial court’s order granting relief to Chidambarams and cancel their anticipatory bail. It has claimed that the two remained evasive during the investigation and there is a likelihood that they could tamper with the evidence and influence witnesses. It has said the position of Chidambaram and his son that they are members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha cannot be a legally tenable ground to grant them anticipatory bail.

The CBI is probing how Chidambaram, being the finance minister in 2006, granted FIPB approval to a foreign firm, when only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it. The ED is probing a money laundering case in the Aircel-Maxis matter, in which the Chidambarams have been questioned by the agency. While granting anticipatory bail to the Chidambarams, the trial court had said the charges against them were not of grave magnitude as the alleged money laundered is a “paltry amount” of Rs 1.13 crore compared to the money purportedly received by accused already discharged in the cases. It had, however, directed the Chidambarams to join the probe in the cases lodged by the two agencies and said that in the event of arrest, they be released on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and one surety of like amount.

In the INX Media case, the CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance granted to the media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as the finance minister. Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017. Chidambaram has approached the Supreme Court seeking bail in the INX Media case lodged by CBI after the Delhi High Court on September 30, 2019, denied him the relief.

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