INX Media: P Chidambaram Bail Plea in ED case – Live Updates from the hearing in Supreme Court

INX Media: P Chidambaram Bail Plea in ED case – Live Updates from the hearing in Supreme Court

Bar & Bench

The hearing in the bail plea filed by former Union Minister Chidambaram in the INX Media case being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is presently underway before a three judge Bench of the Supreme Court.

The hearing is progressing before a Bench of Justices R BanumathiAS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy.

Chidambaram had moved the Supreme Court against the order of the Delhi High court denying him bail in the case. On November 20, the Supreme Court had sought the ED’s response on the plea.

Senior Counsels Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi made arguments on behalf of Chidambaram yesterday. Enforcement Directorate (ED) will make their submissions today.

Read an count of yesterday’s hearing here

Live updates from today’s hearing follow

Submissions for the Enforcement Directorate

  • ASG KM Natraj making submissions for the Enforcement Directorate.
  • Nataraj reading out from ED’s counter affidavit.
  • SG Tushar Mehta continues submissions for ED.
  • Mehta: will make arguments under 3 categories: manner in which offence has taken place, gravity of the offence, and documents to show that P Chidambaram wields substantial control over crucial witnesses.
  • Mehta: Witnesses are not ready to come face-to-face with him. One witness wrote a letter saying so. Will not name him for security reasons
  • On Kapil Sibal’s “Ranga Billa” comment made yesterday: Are we only going to take offences seriously if the offender is Ranga Billa? Mehta
  • Economic offences are serious offences. Society in general is aggrieved. It is a grave offence and there cannot be a straitjacket formula that unless I am Ranga Billa, I cannot be put in jail, Mehta
  • The Benami properties are outside the country and can be traced to the family of the petitioner. Properties can be linked to him and the co-conspirators, Mehta
  • Mehta: My witnesses are vulnerable if the petitioner is granted bail. These are not strangers, they are part of the process or are ostensible owners of the properties.
  • These are not offences committed in the heat of the moment. Murder is sometimes committed in the heat of the moment, and bail is granted on some conditions. But economic offences are always pre-meditated and calculated, Mehta.
  • This makes them a class of offence. It is a kind of offence where the accused makes sure that no trace is left, in case it is investigated in the future, Mehta.
  • It’s not that he (Chidambaram) is an innocent man who was kept in the dark, Mehta.
  • This is not a case confined to INX Media, there are other companies that also applied for FIPB approvals, Mehta.
  • In this kind of well thought out and well crafted economic offence, the accused may not get directly involved. But we have said that we can establish the link, Mehta.
  • Mehta: As a nation, we are at a crossroads where we are facing the menace of economic offences. What sanctity do we want to give to the gravity of offences of money laundering
  • Mehta: While supporting the Delhi HC order, I am entitled to say that some findings (with respect to influencing witnesses and tampering evidence) are incorrect.
  • In CBI case, both High Court and Supreme Court said that Chidambaram is not a flight risk. So as a responsible agency, we did not urge on this point, Mehta.
  • Mehta reiterates that a very vital, key person wrote a letter – not a recorded statement – that he does not want to be confronted in the presence of the petitioner and the same was considered by the High Court.
  • Mehta: Other witnesses were also called but they did not turn up when they were called to be confronted with the petitioner.
  • Mehta: The fact that they did not even turn up shows the kind of power he (Chidambaram) wields and the fear in the minds of the witnesses.
  • Mehta submits that the reason why Karti Chidambaram has not been arrested thus far is on account of the interim protection afforded to him by the Delhi High Court.
  • The agency will move to arrest Karti Chidambaram when the interim protection is vacated, Mehta says.
  • We have gone past Indrani and Peter Mukherjea. As it turns out, it is not just INX Media; the case concerns FIPB approvals of more company.
  • Mehta: There is a growing trend that articles are published at crucial times, sometimes before hearings, criticising the Court’s decisions. Unfortunately, some people of our fraternity are also doing this. I leave it at that.
  • He was not an innocent and unknowing bystander. A common man’s faith in the establishment is shaken unless are able to successfully bring back probity in public, Mehta.
  • Mehta: Wrong message goes to the public at large. The question is whether as an institution, we want to send a message to the public at large whether we see economic offences with a permissive eye.
  • Mehta: A separate standard should be applied when it comes to people holding high offices, especially those elected by the people.
  • Mehta taking the Court through precedents in support of his argument. “A more rigorous test should be applied in case of economic offences.”
  • My submission is that High Court order doesn’t need interference.
  • Mehta concludes and requests to file evidence in a sealed cover.

Rejoinder Submissions

  • Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal begins rejoinder arguments.
  • Throughout the counter affidavit, there is no mention of me directly linked to the case. There are only allegations, Sibal.
  • On what basis does anybody say that I (Chidambaram) have influenced anybody? If a witness hasn’t come, he hasn’t come, Sibal.
  • Sibal: A summons never says that you have to be confronted. Summons only says that you have to come.
  • Sibal: I am in their custody and some witnesses chose not to come and they have assumed that I have influenced them.
  • Sibal: They are saying that Benami property can be traced to my family. But what is my role? I am asking for bail.
  • Sibal: The recoveries made are also not from me. I may agree with the submissions made by the SG on economic offences, but what is my role in all this?
  • Sibal: They cannot destroy a man’s career and reputation by making all these allegations that have no legal standing.
  • Sibal: If they reveal an act that they say I had done, it won’t prejudice anyone. This is not a cloak and dagger situation.
  • Sibal: They are saying that someone close to me created some company and because that person is close to me, it must be done at my behest.
  • Sibal: There is no reference to me. Somebody else has done something, I am vicariously liable and there is an economic offence and I should be sent to jail?
  • Sibal: Then they say, “petitioner, being the father of Karti…” So from kingpin, I’ve become father. If at all my son may have done something wrong, why should I be liable?
  • Sibal contests the applicability of the precedents cited by Mehta in the case.
  • Kapil Sibal concludes rejoinder submissions.
  • Senior Advocate  Abhishek Manu Singhvi starts rejoinder arguments.
  • Singhvi: If there are triple tests and other factors in my favour, then gravity of offence cannot operate. Else it will mean that I should be in jail for eternity.
  • Singhvi: If there are triple tests and other factors in my favour, then gravity of offence cannot operate. Else it will mean that I should be in jail for eternity.
  • Singhvi concludes.
  • Mehta seeks permission from Court to place three sets of sealed covers on record through the Registrar.
  • Supreme Court reserves order in the case. Directs the Registry to accept the three sets of sealed covers from the ED and keep them in safe custody for the perusal of the Court.

The INX Media 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.

Chidambaram was arrested by the ED in connection with the money laundering case on October 16, and was subsequently sent to custody. He was sent to judicial custody on October 30. On November 13, his judicial custody was extended till November 27 and subsequently until December 11. On November 15, the Delhi High Court rejected his bail plea, prompting the present appeal before the Supreme Court.

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