[dropcap]H[/dropcap]OURS after senior Congress leader P Chidambaram was denied anticipatory bail in INX Media case, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team visited his house at Jorbagh, New Delhi, on Tuesday late evening to arrest him but he was not present there.
Allegedly, the financial irregularities related to foreign investment in the broadcasting company took place in 2007 when he was the Finance Minister in UPA-I government.
On Tuesday, Delhi High Court rejected two applications moved by Chidambaram, who is currently a Rajya Sabha MP, for anticipatory bail. In his pleas, he had requested the court to give him three days’ interim protection from the imminent threat of arrest.
Maintaining that Chidambram was evasive during questioning, both CBI and Economic Directorate (ED) during their argument opposed his pleas in the court, asserting that custodial interrogation was urgently required.
Justice Sunil Gaur—who had earlier reserved the decision on January 25, while delivering the judgement nearly seven months later, rejected the argument that the case against Chidambaram was politically motivated.
“Magnitude and enormity of material produced disentitle the petitioner (Chidambaram) from any pre-arrest bail,” the court said in the judgement, rejecting the bail application.
“I have pondered over this matter for long and after weighing the pros and cons, I am of the considered view that the gravity of the offence committed in the instant case amply justifies denial of pre-arrest bail to the petitioner. Grant of pre-arrest bail in serious matter like instant one to an accused simply on the ground that investigation is complete and charge sheet has been filed, would defeat the ends of justice,” Justice Gaur observed.
“Both the sides have cited legal precedents but the facts of the case prima facie reveal that petitioner is the kingpin, i.e., the key conspirator in this case,” he said adding that “law enforcing agencies cannot be made ineffective by putting legal obstacles of offences in question.”
He further said that “Chidambaram couldn’t be treated on par with other accused in the INX Media case, who are out on bail because he was the Finance Minister when he approved foreign direct investment in the broadcasting company.”
“He (Chidambram) cannot be given pre-arrest bail simply because he is a sitting MP,” he added.
This prompted his lawyer and another Congress leader Kapil Sibbal approached the Supreme Court, seeking an urgent hearing. The matter would be brought before justice NV Ramana on Wednesday as that Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the second senior-most judge, Justice SA Bobde would be hearing the Ayodhya dispute case.
“The defence would argue in the Supreme Court that Chidambaram cannot be termed a flight risk, he cannot be said to be tampering with evidence, and he has responded to all the summons issued by investigators so far,” another Congress leader Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi told media.
Soon after Delhi High Court rejected his bail pleas, a team of CBI put up a notice outside Chidambaram’s residence, Delhi asking him to appear before them in two hours. They were later joined by ED sleuths at Chidambram’s residence.
The notice read: “Whereas it appears that you are acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case noted below, which I am now investigating under Chapter 12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, you are hereby directed to attend before me within two hours of the receipt of this notice for the purpose of investigation of the case.”
“I am instructed to state that your notice fails to mention the provision of law under which my client has been issued a notice to appear within two hours,” said Arshdeep Singh Khurana, Chidambaram’s lawyer, according to news agency ANI.
“He (Chidambaram) has been permitted by the Supreme Court to mention the urgent special leave petition against the order before the court at 10:30 am today. I, therefore, request you not to take any coercive action against my client till then and await the hearing at 10:30 am,” the lawyer said in a letter to the CBI, ANI reported.
The INX Media case involves alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the broadcasting company. An FIR was registered by the CBI in this case on May 15, 2017 whereas the ED lodged a money laundering case next year.
Indrani Mukerjea and her husband Peter Mukherjea, who co-founded the television company in 2007, are accused of entering into a criminal conspiracy with Karti Chidambaram, Chidambaram’s son, to evade punitive measures for not having necessary approvals from FIPB.
The statements of Indrani and Peter to the ED played a crucial role in Chidambaram’s prosecution, TOI has reported.
Read the Delhi High Court order here: