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Seeking dismissal of the regular bail plea filed by P Chidambaram in the INX Media case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) today argued that the manner in which the high office of the country was misused by Chidambaram for personal gains, disentitles him from seeking any relief.
The ED has stated that grant of bail to Chidambaram would be against the “Zero Tolerance Policy in Corruption” and would also set a wrong precedent.
The averments were made by the ED in response to P Chidambaram’s bail plea in the INX Media money laundering case.
On October 17, the Special CBI Court at Rouse Avenue had remanded Chidambaram to ED custody till October 24 in the money laundering case filed against the Senior Advocate.
The case pertains to the alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to INX Media when P Chidambaram was the Finance Minister of India.
It is the case of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED that P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram received illegal gratification from INX Media owners Peter and Indrani Mukherjea for the clearance.
The ED has claimed that there was “overwhelming incriminating evidence” to establish that Chidambaram was prima facie guilty of offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Further emphasizing on the gravity of the offence of money laundering, ED has stated,
“..economic offences constitute a class apart and a class by itself, as it cuts the very root of probity and purity of public administration and results in eroding the public confidence which it reposes on the government elected by it…the present case constitutes as one of the gravest of economic offences committed at the point in time.”
The ED has also sought to distinguish its case from the corruption case being probed by the CBI.
“PMLA does not amount to further investigation of the transaction investigated under PC and IPC Act or addition of separate offences in the said investigation..the evidence collected is also different and distinct and more shocking…”
The agency has thus raised concerns of tampering of evidence, destruction of material evidence and influencing of witnesses by Chidambaram and his co-conspirators.
“the petitioner is not only influencing witnesses but his mere presence is enough to intimidate witnesses.”
It has also sought the Court’s permission to place on record certain material in a sealed cover which shows that prejudice to the investigation and prosecution may be caused if Chidambaram is released.
The agency adds that a review petition has been filed before the Supreme Court against the order granting bail to P Chidambaram in the CBI case.
The ED has also refuted Chidambaram’s contention that offences for which he is being probed were included in the PMLA schedule only in June 2009, while the offences pertained to 2005-2006. The ED has argued that the offence of money laundering is a continuing offence.
“money laundering is a continuing offence, inasmuch as, by its definition, the offence continues as long as accused is in possession, acquisition of the ill-gotten wealth since the projection is not one-time offence and continues till such time person is in possession of the ill-gotten wealth…Thus time of its generation is of no consequence but the possession, acquisition and its projection as untainted is.”
It has nonetheless added that the CBI FIR in the case is under Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which has always been a scheduled offence.
In his rejoinder filed in the case, Chidambaram has contended that the ED’s grounds to deny him bail are speculative, misconceived and completely baseless.
He has also claimed that his arrest was malafide and done with the intention to harm his reputation. Thus, he has argued that he should be enlarged on bail as there is no incriminating evidence against him.
Stating that he has “deep roots in the society”, Chidambaram argued that he has no propensity to evade the process of law and has always been available for the investigation.
The matter was listed for hearing today. However, due to a strike in response to the violence at Tis Hazari Court last week, the matter was adjourned to November 6.