BAIL DENIED TO CHIDAMBARAM IN INX SCAM

-SNEHA CHAUHAN

Background

The INX Media case refers to an ongoing high-profile money-laundering investigation in India. It involves an allegation of irregularities in foreign exchange clearances given to INX Media group for receiving overseas investment in 2007. P. Chidambaram was Union finance minister at the time. His son Karti Chidambaram has been implicated by the investigating agencies. Bail granted to Chidambaram in INX Scam by Supreme Court.

Current Issue

On Tuesday, former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram was granted bail from The Supreme Court in the ongoing case registered by CBI on corruption allegations connected to INX Media FDI transactions.  The bench included Justices R Banumathi, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, who had re-served the judgment on October 18 in his petition questioning the September 30 judgment of the Delhi High Court.

The judgment aroused by Justice Banumathi was that The High Court mainly focused on allegations purely based on its nature and the merits but it did not keep in vision the well told principles for grant or refusal to grant bail. Even though Chidambaram was granted bail from Supreme Court he won’t be able to walk free. With conditions by court such as he should always be available for interrogation and should not leave the country. 

The cross appeal filed by the CBI was also dismissed by the bench against the conclusion of the Delhi High Court that Chidamabaram as did not pose a ‘flight risk’ and that there was no premonition that he would manipulate evidence. As the court observed by rejecting the argument of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that Chidambaram is competent of fleeing away, clearly said in the judgment:

“At this stage itself, it is necessary for us to indicate that we are unable to accept the contention of the learned Solicitor General that “flight risk” of economic offenders should be looked at as a national phenomenon and be dealt with in that manner merely because certain other offenders have flown out of the country.  The same cannot, in our view, be put in a straight-jacket formula so as to deny bail to the one who is before the Court, due to the conduct of other offenders, if the person under consideration is otherwise entitled to bail on the merits of his own case. Hence, in our view, such consideration including as to “flight risk” is to be made on individual basis being uninfluenced by the unconnected cases, more so, when the personal liberty is involved”. 

The SC observed as keeping the findings of the high court that Chidambaram might have influenced the witness the following observations are :

  1. Till the date, there has been no allegation regarding influencing of any witness by the appellant or his men directly or indirectly.
  2.  In the number of remand applications, there was no whisper that any material witness has been approached not to disclose information about the appellant and his son. 
  3. It appears that only at the time of opposing the bail and in the counter affidavit filed by the CBI before the High Court, the averments were made that “…..the appellant is trying to influence the witnesses and if enlarged on bail, would further pressurize the witnesses…..”

ALSO READ: CBI court seeks Chidambaram’s production in ED’s plea for custody

ADVOCATE KAPIL SIBAL

Conclusion

The Supreme Court observed:

Mere averments that the months, co-operated with the investigating agency and the charge sheet is also filed appellant approached the witnesses and the assertion that the appellant would further pressurize the witnesses, without any material basis cannot be the reason to deny regular bail to the appellant; more so, when the appellant has been in custody for nearly two”.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Chidambarm, argued that the contents of charge sheet cannot be considered in a bail application. He also mentioned that the high court was in favour of Chidambaram with the first two tests and should be granted bail applying the triple tests for bail which are manipulating of evidence, influencing of witnesses and flight risk.

He was in custody for 58 day so there is no such possibility of influencing witnesses. 18 October 2019, the CBI had submitted charge sheet under Sections 120B, 420, 468, 471 of Indian Penal Code and offences under Sections 9 and 13(1) (d) of Prevention of Corruption Act against Chidambaram and his son karti , Peter Mukherjee ( the former INX media head ) and eleven others for offences such as cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy. A separate case was filed by ED under Prevention of Money Laundering Act in respect of the money laundering allegations and the current CBI case is regarding to corruption allegations.

The High Court notify the sealed cover notes given by the CBI, which stated that the charged Peter Mukherjee and Indrani Mukherjee had met Chidambaram before the FIPB approval. The Court said that, “it was on record that large sums of monies had come to the companies owned and controlled by Karti Chidambaram during the period of FIPB approval to INX Media, even though no services were rendered by those companies”. The judgment also said a large number of emails were exchanged between the representatives of INX media and Karti P. Chidambaram.“Economic offences constitute a class apart as it cuts at the root of probity and  purity of public administration” observed by the high court. 

ALSO READ: P. Chidambaram’s INX media scam