INX Media Case: Karti Chidambaram Granted Bail By Delhi HC [Read Order]
The Delhi High Court on Friday granted bail to Karti Chidambaram in the INX Media case registered against him by the CBI while holding that there was no possibility of him fleeing from justice as he has roots in the society, his parents are senior lawyers and he has a family to take care of while also noting that the CBI had not recovered any incriminating material from his possession during his police custody from February 28 to March 12.
Justice SP Garg granted bail to Karti who has been in Tihar jail since March 12.
“Allegations against the petitioner primarily are for commission of offence punishable under Section 8 of Prevention of Corruption Act. The punishment for commission of the offence punishable under Section 8 is imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years with fine. Settled position is that generally bail should not be refused unless the crime charged is of the highest magnitude and the punishment of it assigned by law is of extreme severity.
“There appears no possibility of the petitioner to flee from justice. His parents are senior advocates; he has family to take care of; he has roots in the society and is not a previous convict,” said Justice Garg who granted bail to Karti upon furnishing personal bond in the sum of Rs 10 lakh with a surety of like amount.
The court imposed following conditions on Karti while releasing him on bail:
- The petitioner shall not leave India without prior permission of the Trial Court; he shall deposit his passport with the Trial Court, if not deposited so far.
- He shall not close any of his bank account in India or abroad before prior intimation to CBI; shall not change the entity or composition of any business concerns with which he is associated without prior intimation to CBI.
- He shall be available to the CBI for joining the investigation as and when required.
- In case of change of residential address or change in mobile number, CBI shall be duly informed beforehand.
- The petitioner shall not contact the prosecution witnesses; shall not temper with evidence; shall not criminally intimidate any witness in any manner.
In his order, Justice Garg noted that, “During the course of arguments, a specific query was raised and the learned Addl. Solicitor General was asked if there was recovery of any incriminating material at the instance of the petitioner or from his possession during police custody remand from 28.02.2018 to 12.03.2018. Learned Addl. Solicitor General, on instructions, fairly admitted that there was no such recovery”.
“Order dated 09.03.2018 records that two separate applications, one seeking permission to allow Indrani Mukherjea and Pratim Mukherjea @ Peter Mukherjea to be brought to Delhi for identification of place in Delhi in the presence of the petitioner and the other seeking permission to confront the petitioner with co-accused Bhaskararaman were moved. When these applications were taken up for consideration at 02.00 p.m., CBI opted not to press the application seeking permission to allow Indrani Mukherjea and Pratim Mukherjea @ Peter Mukherjea to be brought to Delhi for identification of the place in Delhi in the presence of petitioner. The said application was dismissed as ‘not pressed,” the court further noted.
The bench also noted that the CBI could not explain the inordinate delay in filing the FIR.
“The application seeking permission to confront the petitioner with co-accused Bhaskararaman (since released on bail) being CA of the petitioner was allowed. The incident whereby ‘INX Media’ allegedly entered into criminal conspiracy with the petitioner and others to receive excess FDI than the one approved by FIPB and also of making unauthorized downstream investment without approval of the FIPB and both being scuttled by the petitioner by influencing public servants of the FIPB Unit pertains to the year 2007-2008. Indisputably, the FIR in question was lodged on 15.05.2017 on ‘source’ information. No explanation has, however, been offered for the inordinate delay in lodging the FIR,” it said.
The court’s attention was also drawn to the fact that during investigation, statements of Indrani Mukherjea under Section 161 CrPC and 164 CrPC implicating Karti were recorded on 07.12.2017 and 17.02.2018, and she did not offer any reasonable explanation for not implicating the petitioner and others at the earliest while Pratim Mukherjea @ Peter Mukherjea who is stated to be one of the accused in the FIR has yet not been arrested.
The bench also took note of the fact that, “During investigation, the prosecution recorded statements of senior officers under Section 161 Cr.P.C. who were at the helm of affairs at ‘FIPB’ at the relevant time of grant of necessary approvals. They did not attribute or assign any specific and definite role to the petitioner in the crime. None of the senior officers claimed to have ever been approached or influenced in the grant of approvals by the petitioner”.
While observing that from the statements recorded under Section 161 CrPC of various individuals coupled with the e-mails exchanged, it can well be inferred that there was nexus between Karti’s Chess Management Services (CMS) and Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASC), no plausible explanation has been given by the petitioner as to how and why, for consultancy services purportedly given by ‘CMS’, invoice in the sum of Rs 10 lakh as professional fee was raised on behalf of ‘ASC’.
“This incriminating circumstance, however, alone is not sufficient at this stage to deny bail to the petitioner as this payment was duly accounted for in the records and was received by a cheque. It is a matter of trial as to who was the ultimate beneficiary of this amount. No credible evidence has been produced on record regarding the exact relationship of the petitioner with ‘ASC’,” Justice Garg said.Read the Order Here