INX Media case: SC to hear CBI’s plea against HC findings on Chidambaram on Tuesday

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Published: October 14, 2019 9:06:37 PM

The Congress leader has urged the apex court to grant him interim bail till his appeal is decided.

The high court had dismissed his bail plea, saying the investigation was at an advanced stage and the possibility of his influencing witnesses could not be ruled out.

The CBI on Monday challenged in the Supreme Court the findings of the Delhi High Court that former Union finance minister P Chidambaram, arrested in the INX Media corruption case, was not a flight risk and could not tamper with evidence. The top court agreed to hear the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) plea on Tuesday, along with the appeal filed by Chidambaram, challenging the high court’s September 30 verdict denying him bail in the case.

Though the high court had denied bail to the senior Congress leader, it had observed that he was not a flight risk and could not tamper with evidence. The matter was mentioned before a bench headed by Justice R Banumathi and advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the CBI, urged the bench for an urgent hearing on the plea.

Chidambaram’s appeal challenging the high court order dismissing his bail plea is already listed for hearing before a bench of Justice Banumathi on Tuesday. The high court had decided 74-year-old Chidambaram’s bail petition on three aspects — flight risk, tampering with evidence and influencing of witnesses. On flight risk and tampering with evidence, the high court had ruled in favour of Chidambaram, while on the third count of influencing witnesses, the verdict had gone against the senior Congress leader.

The CBI has challenged the high court’s findings on the aspects of flight risk and tampering with evidence. A trial court reserved its order on Monday on the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) plea, seeking Chidambaram’s custodial interrogation in the INX Media money-laundering case.

The high court had said Chidambaram was not a “flight risk” and there was no chance of his tampering with evidence but he could influence witnesses if granted bail. Challenging the high court order denying him bail, Chidambaram had earlier approached the apex court, which issued a notice to the CBI, asking the agency to respond to the plea.

Chidambaram, who is lodged in Tihar Jail here under judicial custody till October 17 in the INX Media case, was arrested by the CBI on August 21. The CBI had registered an FIR 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.

Thereafter, the ED lodged a money-laundering case in this regard in 2017. Chidambaram had challenged the high court’s September 30 order, saying his continued incarceration was in the “form of punishment” and the liberty of an individual could not be denied on the basis of “anonymous and unverified allegations”. The high court had dismissed his bail plea, saying the investigation was at an advanced stage and the possibility of his influencing witnesses could not be ruled out.

Chidambaram has said in his plea that “conclusive findings” have been rendered by the high court on the basis of the documents placed before it in a “sealed envelope” by the CBI, which were neither part of the record nor shown to him, and he was not given an opportunity to rebut the same. He has said that the high court has “erred” in dismissing his bail plea on a mere apprehension that he may influence witnesses, without any supporting material, and on the basis of unverified allegations that do not allege or point anything against him. He has also denied the high court’s finding that INX Media’s former promoters — Indrani and Peter Mukerjea — had met him and “illegal gratification” was paid.

Chidambaram has further said that the case does not relate to an “economic offence” and there was no loss to the public exchequer. He has also denied the high court’s finding that a large amount of money had come into companies owned or controlled by alleged co-conspirator and his son Karti. He has said the other accused in the case, including Karti, have already been granted bail or interim protection by the courts and it will be “manifestly unjust and illegal” to deny him the relief. The Congress leader has urged the apex court to grant him interim bail till his appeal is decided.

In its verdict, the high court had said it could not be disputed that if the case was proved against Chidambaram, the offence was on the society, economy, financial stability and integrity of the country. It had also said that it was on record that illegal gratification was paid by and through other companies by Indrani and Peter Mukerjea to firms controlled and owned by “co-conspirator and co-accused Karti”.

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