Chidambaram, who was granted bail by the Supreme Court on October 22 in the INX media corruption case, is lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody in the ED's money laundering case.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday opposed in the Delhi High Court the bail plea of former union minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case, saying the gravity of offences allegedly committed by him does not entitle him for the relief. The ED, in its affidavit filed in response to 74-year-old Chidambaram’s bail petition, said the contention of the senior Congress leader that no offence is made out against him is “untenable in law” and his plea is liable to be rejected.
The matter is listed for hearing on Monday before Justice Suresh Kait, who had asked the probe agency to respond to Chidambaram’s bail plea. Chidambaram, who was granted bail by the Supreme Court on October 22 in the INX media corruption case, is lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody in the ED’s money laundering case.
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On Friday, the high court while disposing of the interim bail plea of Chidambaram, who was suffering from Crohn’s disease, had directed the Tihar Jail Superintendent to provide him clean and hygienic surroundings and also mineral water, home cooked food and mosquito protection nets and repellants.
The ED, in its response to the bail plea, said the gravity of offences allegedly committed by Chidambaram for which he was being investigated, the brazenness and impunity with which the high office of the country was misused by him for personal gain does not entitle him from seeking any relief from the court. It said this would not only be against the ‘zero tolerance policy on corruption’ of the court and the country but would also set a very wrong precedence in all corruption cases.
The agency said the investigation has resulted in gathering of substantial material by it showing a clear case of money laundering with the involvement of Chidambaram, his son Karti and others. The ED referred to Section 3 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PMLA) which says that whosoever “directly or indirectly attempts to indulge or knowingly assists or knowingly is a party or is actually involved in any process or activity connected to proceeds of crime including its concealment, possession, acquisition or use and projecting or claiming it as untainted property shall be guilty of offence of money laundering”. It said Chidambaram cannot claim that it is only his son Karti who can be at best be alleged to have committed the offence.
“It has come on record that the proceeds of crime were generated due to the act of petitioner (Chidambaram) in granting permissions illegally for gratification collected by Karti Chidambaram at the petitioner’s behest,” the ED said and sought dismissal of the bail plea saying it was devoid of merits.
Chidambaram had earlier sought anticipatory bail in the money laundering case from the high court which dismissed the plea. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court which also refused to grant him the relief. The ED arrested him in the money laundering case on October 16. He was arrested by the CBI on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case.
The case was registered by the CBI on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007, during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister. The CBI on October 18 filed its charge sheet naming Chidambaram and several others as accused in the INX media corruption case.
The trial court took cognisance of the charge sheet on October 21 and subsequently, on October 22, the apex court granted him regular bail in the matter. Chidambaram has contended in his bail plea that both the CBI and ED case arise out of the same financial transaction and therefore, there cannot be separate remand for both.
The plea contended that since all the evidence in the case is documentary and is in the custody of investigating agencies, he cannot tamper with it. It claimed that Chidambaram was always available for questioning by the ED and had appeared before the agency and answered all questions on all the four dates he was summoned, the last being February 8. He has further said that no attempt was made by ED to question him, till October 16, while he was lodged in Tihar Jail since September 5.
On October 16, the ED interrogated Chidambaram in Tihar Jail and then formally arrested him “for the specious reason of being evasive” during questioning, the plea claimed. The plea has also contended that Chidambaram’s health condition is “fragile” as he is 74-year-old and suffers from various ailments, including coronary artery disease. He has referred to the Supreme Court’s October 22 order granting bail to Chidambaram in the CBI case and said that it has stated there was no evidence of tampering, flight risk and influencing witnesses against Chidambaram in corruption case.