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The Delhi High Court today refused to grant anticipatory bail to former Union Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram in relation to the INX Media case.
The order was pronounced by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Sunil Gaur after it was reserved on January 25.
The Court also denied interim protection to P Chidambaram for the time being.
Remarking that an offender must be exposed irrespective of his status, the Court observed that a prima facie case was made out against Chidambaram, and that it was not a fit case for grant of pre-arrest bail.
Calling it a “classic case of money laundering”, the Court stated that the twin factors weighing against Chidambaram were the gravity of the offence and his evasive replies to questions put to him by the investigative agencies.
“The gravity of offence committed in this case justify denial of pre arrest bail…The facts persuade me to decline pre-arrest bail to petitioner while refraining to comment on merits of the case”, the order reads.
The Court also dismissed arguments claiming that the Congress leader’s arrest was politically motivated.
“(It is) preposterous to say prosecution of the petitioner (P Chidambaram) is baseless, politically motivated and act of vendetta.”
The Court further added that facts of the case prima facie reveal that Chidambaram was the “kingpin” and grant of bail in cases like cases the instant one would “send a wrong message to the society“.
“It cannot be forgotten that the petitioner was the Finance Minister at the relevant time and he had given FDI clearances to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 Crore…Simply because he is a Member of Parliament, it would not justify grant of pre arrest bail to him.”
The INX Media case pertains to the alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to INX Media at the time when P Chidambaram was the Finance Minister. It is the case of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram received illegal gratification from INX Media owners, Peter and Indrani Mukherjea for the clearance.
Indrani Mukherjea is presently an approver in the case.
Chidambaram had argued that while the case pertains to alleged irregularities in granting Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance in 2007, the investigation was initiated by the CBI and the ED only in 2018. It was also stated that neither did the FIR in the case name Chidamabaram as an accused nor could the sections invoked in the FIR make a case out against him.
Chidambaram had also contended that at the stage of bail, the Court need not look into the merits of the case and it only needed to satisfy itself on three conditions before granting bail, i.e. absence of flight risk, no risk of evidence tampering, and accused being available for further investigation.
Strongly opposing Chidambaram’s bail, the investigating agencies had asked the Court to allow them to exercise their “statutory right to arrest” so as to enable them to interrogate Chidambaram in custody.
The agencies argued that Chidambaram was evasive and non-cooperative when he appeared for questioning before the agencies in relation to the case.
Karti Chidambaram was granted bail in the case by the High Court last year.
Chidambaram was represented by Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Dayan Krishnan, Mohit Mathur.
The agencies were represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.