P Chidambaram gets bail in INX media corruption case

73
Former finance minister P Chidambaram. File Photo

New Delhi, October 22: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in INX Media corruption case relating to alleged irregularities in FIPB approval.

A three-judge Bench headed by Justice R Banumathi, which had on Friday reserved its verdict on the bail plea of the senior Congress leader, directed him to furnish a personal bond of Rs One lakh and two sureties in the like amount.

However, Chidambaram can’t walk free as he is currently under Enforcement Directorate’s custody custody in a money laundering case relating to the scam.

The top court directed him to make himself available for interrogation and not to leave the country without the trial court’s permission.

The order came on his petition challenging the September 30 Delhi High Court verdict denying him bail in the case.

The top court clarified that the findings of the Delhi High Court will not have any bearing on the proceedings in the case.

The grant of bail plea comes four days after the CBI filed a charge sheet before a Delhi court accusing him, his son Karti and others of causing loss to the exchequer by their alleged acts of corruption.

Chidambaram (74) was arrested by the CBI on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case and is currently under the ED’s custody in a related money laundering case.The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance given to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007, during Chidambaram’s tenure as the finance minister. Later, ED lodged a separate money-laundering case in 2017.

Opposing his bail plea, the CBI had told the top court that a person “reasonably in know-how of the things”, and whose identity has been withheld even in the charge sheet, forms a crucial basis of the INX Media corruption case against Chidambaram, Karti and others.

Belying the belief that former promoter of INX Media Indrani Mukherjea’s statement was the basis of Chidambaram’s prosecution in the case, the CBI said a person has stated that he was being “influenced” and “intimidated” by the senior Congress leader when not under arrest.

“He is the person who has given his statement under section 164 of the CrPC (recorded before a judicial magistrate) that he was being influenced and intimidated. We do not wish to disclose his identity even in the chargesheet,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, submitted.

“He (Chidambaram) tried to influence this person when he was out. He is not Indrani or Peter Mukherjea but he is the person who has reasonably known the things and his statement forms part of the charge sheet. Statement of Indrani Mukherjea is also a part of the charge sheet,” Mehta had told the Bench.

On behalf of Chidambaram, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi had contested Mehta’s submissions, contending the high court rightly held that the former finance minister was neither a “flight risk” and nor can he tamper with evidence. Sibal questioned Mehta for referring to contents of the charge sheet and said it is meant for the trial court and neither the apex court nor high court should deal with it.

Mehta had said the high court had erred in saying that Chidambaram was not a “flight risk” as the country is facing a problem where persons accused in financial frauds and economic offences are fleeing India.

“Where can he run away? His passport is not with him. A look out circular was issued against him. A person of his stature cannot run away. He is known across the world,” Sibal had said, adding Chidambaram had lost 5 kg during his stay in jail.