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FIR baseless, politically motivated: SLP filed by P Chidambaram in the Supreme Court
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FIR baseless, politically motivated: SLP filed by P Chidambaram in the Supreme Court

Aditya AK

As reported yesterday, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram has approached the Supreme Court in appeal against the Delhi High Court’s order denying him anticipatory bail in the INX Media Case.

So under what grounds has P Chidambaram approached the Apex Court? The Special Leave Petition filed by Shally Bhasin and drawn by Arshdeep Singh and Akshat Gupta reveals all.

The FIR

In his SLP, P Chidambaram details how he was summoned as per the FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The same was lodged against four companies, his son Karti Chidambaram, and “unknown officials of the Ministry of Finance” in May 2017, ten years after the alleged offence took place.

Th FIR mentioned Section 8 and Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 420 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code. However, Chidambaram argues that Section 13 of the PC Act was repealed and re-enacted in 2018, without any saving clause. Hence, the section cannot be invoked to prosecute him.

Further, the FIR does not name Chidambaram as an accused or a suspect. It is claimed that there is no allegation against him in the body of the FIR.

The Congress leader also maintains that he has no connection with INX Media.

“The trigger for the investigation is claimed to be a payment of Rs 10 lakhs (by cheque on which income-tax was paid) by INX Media to another company namely M/s Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt. Ltd. for consultancy rendered by the latter. It is on record that INX Media has denied any other payment; nor has any evidence been brought on record of any other payment. The Petitioner has no connection whatsoever with either INX Media or M/s Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt. Ltd.”

Full cooperation in the investigation

P Chidambaram states that he was summoned only once by the CBI in June 2018, when he appeared and answered all questions put to him. No summons was issued thereafter.

“Once the investigation has been completed without arrest of the Petitioner (and no summons was issued after 6-6-2018), there is no ground for CBI to oppose bail or seek custody.”

Following the registration of the FIR, the Enforcement Directorate filed an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR). The SLP that the contents of the same are not known because the ED maintains it as an internal record.

“The Petitioner believes that the said ECIR was a copy of the abovementioned FIR and there were no allegations against the Petitioner in the body of the said ECIR.”

It is also claimed that pursuant to ED summons, Chidambaram appeared before the agency and answered all of its questions on December 19 of last year, and January 7 and 21 of this year.

Challenge to the Delhi HC order

Chidambaram has challenged yesterday’s Delhi High Court order denying him anticipatory bail as being “manifestly contrary to law and unjust”.

It is claimed that none of the three grounds to deny bail – likelihood to flee from justice; potential to influence witnesses; or possibility of tampering with evidence – were made out.

He has further claimed that his implication in the INX Media case is baseless and politically motivated.

“The said FIR was baseless, politically motivated and an act of vendetta against the Petitioner (and his son) because the Petitioner is a vocal critic and opponent of the present central government inside Parliament and outside.”

He also points out that all other persons arrested by the CBI, including his son Karti, have been granted bail.

Additionally, the SLP puts forth certain questions of law with regard to the Delhi High Court order. Among these are:

  1. Can the High Court deny bail to the Petitioner who was not named in the FIR recorded by the CBI; when there were no allegations against the Petitioner in the body of the FIR?
  2. Did the High Court err in law in not appreciating that none of the provisions of law (containing the offences alleged in the FIR) would be attracted or apply in the case of the Petitioner?
  3. Was the High Court justified in law in denying bail on the allegation of the Respondent-CBI that some answers given by the Petitioner during the questioning were “evasive” and hence custodial interrogation was necessary? 
  4. Was the High Court justified in denying bail to the Petitioner when all other persons named in the FIR had been granted bail (regular, anticipatory or statutory)?
  5. Did the High Court err in law in not taking into account the impeccable credentials of the Petitioner who had never been accused of an offence; who was not likely to flee justice; and who had not been accused of tampering with the evidence or the witnesses? 

Chidambaram has also taken exception to Justice Sunil Gaur’s observation that he was the kingpin in the INX Media case. 

“The Ld. Judge has ignored the crucial fact that the Petitioner simply approved the unanimous recommendation of the FIPB which was chaired by Secretary, Economic Affairs and consisted of five other Secretaries to the Government of India.”

On the aforementioned grounds, Chidambaram has sought special leave to appeal against the Delhi High Court order. He has also sought interim bail for the time being.