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INX Media: Delhi HC Reserves Order on P Chidambaram's Bail Plea

Karan Tripathi
27 Sep 2019 1:14 PM GMT
INX Media: Delhi HC Reserves Order on P Chidambarams Bail Plea
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Delhi High Court has reserved order in P Chidambaram's application seeking bail in INXMedia case.

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 this claims, SG Tushar Mehta started off by saying that the gravity of an offence is not decided by the punishment prescribed but the impact it has on the society.

He said that the Supreme Court has time and again said that economic offences are grave in nature notwithstanding the punishment prescribed. He added that corruption by public officials breach public trust and harm the financial stability of the country.

He remarked 'lawmakers cannot become law breakers and enjoy impunity'.

SG Tushar Mehta went on to inform the court that many documents have been recovered during the investigation the directly link the criminal conspiracy of illegal gratification to the Petitioner and the same would be presented to the court on a sealed cover.

'The evidence is given in a sealed cover because the investigation is still going on and if at all the accused is released on bail, he might work towards in tampering with it.

Mr Mehta further went on to argue that if released, Chidambaram has a power, position and potential to influence the witnesses. He said his flight risk should be judged by three factors:

  1. A serious case against him with a likelihood of conviction
  2. financially affluent to sustain himself
  3. has an abode in a country outside India

At the beginning of the proceedings, Sibal had communicated a statement to the court on behalf of Chidambaram where he had conveyed that he never met Indrani Mukherjee and he doesn't recollect all the delegations that had called upon him when he was the Finance Minister. To check the same, the visitors' book can be relied upon

SG Mehta countered this argument by saying that investigation has shown that visitors' book has been destroyed. However, a document recovered from Oberoi Hotel suggests that Indrani and Peter Mukherjee had met P Chidambaram by travelling in the hotel's vehicle.

SG also 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.

It was also pointed out that at the time when FIPB approval was given, Revenue Secretary didn't attend the meeting and his representative dissented from the opinion of the Board.

Mr Sibal countered this claim by saying that FIPB approvals were not for a specific amount but for not exceeding 46.21% non-resident equity shareholding limit. Increasing the value of shares would not require prior approval of FIPB if it doesn't breach the said percentage. Moreover, money that came in through FIPB was as per SEBI and RBI guidelines and Petitioner did not intimidate any secretary of FIPB. No evidence is on record to show of any payment made to P Chidambaram.

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