30 Sep 2019 9:44 AM GMT
(Updated with judgment)The Delhi High Court has dismissed the regular bail application filed by former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media case.Dismissing the bail application, Justice Suresh Kumar Kait said that though Chidambaram does not pose a flight risk and also does not have the power to tamper evidence, a he can influence the witnesses at this stage of investigation...
(Updated with judgment)
The Delhi High Court has dismissed the regular bail application filed by former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media case.
Dismissing the bail application, Justice Suresh Kumar Kait said that though Chidambaram does not pose a flight risk and also does not have the power to tamper evidence, a he can influence the witnesses at this stage of investigation as he is a senor member of the bar and an ex-Union minister.
"This Court cannot dispute the fact that petitioner has been a strong Finance Minister and Home Minister and presently, Member of Indian Parliament. He is respectable member of the Bar Association of Supreme Court of India. He has long standing in BAR as a Senior Advocate. He has deep root in the Indian Society and may be some connection in abroad. But, the fact that he will not influence the witnesses directly or indirectly, cannot be ruled out in view of above facts. Moreover, the investigation is at advance stage,therefore, this Court is not inclined to grant bail", observed the judgment.
The Court took note of the 'sealed cover' notes submitted by the CBI, which stated that the accused Peter Mukherjee and Indrani Mukherjee -who controlled INX media - had met Chidambaram even before the filing of application for FIPB approval. The Court said in the judgment that it was on record that large sums of monies had come to the companies owned and controlled by Karti Chidambaram - Chidambaram's son- during the period of FIPB approval to INX Media, even though no services were rendered by those companies. Investigation has also revealed that contemporaneously large number of emails were exchanged between the representatives of INX Media and the company controlled by petitioner and Karti P. Chidambaram, the judgment said.
The Court observed that economic offences constitute a class apart as it cuts at the root of probity and purity of public administration. An economic offence is committed with cool calculation and deliberate design with an eye on personal profit regardless of the consequence to the Community.
"the entire Community is aggrieved if the economic offenders who ruin the economy of the State are not brought to book as such offences affects the very fabric of democratic governance and probity in public life", observed Justice Kait.
Chidambaram was arrested from his Jor Bagh residence on August 21 by the CBI and has been custody since then. On September 5, he was sent to Tihar jail after 15 days of CBI custody. The remand period was later extended till October 3. The allegation is that as Union Finance Minister in 2007, Chidambaram took kickbacks for FIPB clearance for the FDI of INX media, and the money was routed through the companies linked with his son Karti Chidambaram.
The ED has registered a separate case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act in respect of the money laundering allegations. The CBI case is with respect to corruption allegations.
Arguing in favour of the bail, Senior Counsels Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi had made the following submissions before the court during the course of their arguments:
1. The offence the Petitioner is charged with us only punishable with 7 years of imprisonment. Therefore, as per law laid down in the Arnesh Kumar judgment, it's not a serious offence
2. Petitioner is a renowned public figure, a former Union Minister and has roots in the society. Therefore, there's no possibility of him fleeing the investigation
3. Since all the evidence is documentary and in the custody of the ED, the possibility of tampering doesn't arise
4. The other officers of FIPB have mentioned in their statements that they were not influenced in any manner by the Petitioner.
5. ED is relying upon the statements of Indrani Mukherjee who herself is an accused in a murder trial.
6. The present case doesn't involve any misappropriation of public money
In response to these claims, SG Tushar Mehta had argued that the gravity of an offence is not decided by the punishment prescribed but the impact it has on the society.
Mr Mehta had further presented documents in sealed cover to the court to show that INX Media made downstream investment in INX news without taking prior approval of the government. When an application was made for approval after the investment, it was made for fresh registration instead of post-facto approval in order to avoid penalty which amounted to three times the amount of investment. Therefore, Petitioner has misused the public money.
Mr Mehta had also emphasised on the flight risk of Chidambaram, arguing that he's financially sound to sustain himself abroad. It was also argued that he's capable of tampering with evidence as his mere presence might influence of the witnesses.
Appearing for CBI, Mr Mehta had also accused the Petitioner of destroying the visitors book which could've proved his meeting with Indrani Mukherjee.
Click here to download the Judgment