Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram has approached the Delhi High Court seeking regular bail in the case registered by CBI in relation to INX Media transaction.
Chidambaram is at present lodged in Tihar Jail, Delhi, with the CBI Court remanding him to judicial custody till September 19 on September 5, after 15 days of CBI custody. He was arrested from his Jor Bagh residence on August 21.
The allegation is that as Union Finance Minister in 2007, Chidambaram took kickbacks for Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance for the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of INX media, and the money was routed through the companies linked with his son Karti Chidambaram.
The Enforcement Directorate 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.
While remanding him to CBI custody on August 22, the CBI Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar said in the order that allegations were "serious in nature" and a "detailed and in depth investigation is required in the case".
"The allegations of payment being made to the accused in the year 2007-08 and 2008-09 are specific and categorical. The trail of this money if so paid is to be ascertained. No doubt it is a case based on documentary evidence but those documents need to be traced and their value and their worth for the purpose of the investigation in this case is to be ascertained".
"The enormity of money allegedly involved in the case and the persons who are accused necessitate an in depth investigation...The investigation needs to be brought to a logical end and for that purpose, the custodial investigation is sometimes found useful and fruitful", stated the order of the Court.
The CBI pressed for custody of Chidambaram saying that he was not cooperating with the investigation. The confession made by Indrani Mukherjea, former head of INX media group, that money was routed through companies linked to Karti for FIPB approval was cited by the CBI against Chidambaram. Mukerjea, who is at present in Mumbai's Byculla jail in the Sheena Bora murder case, had given her confession before the Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Chidambaram's lawyers - Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi- had argued that the FDI clearance for INX media was granted by Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). Chidambaram, as the then Finance Minister, merely approved the FIPB decision in ordinary course of business. It was a collective decision. However, CBI has not arrested or questioned any officers of FIPB. There is no whisper of allegation in the FIR that Chidambaram has received illegal gratification as a quid pro quo for the INX FDI clearance, submitted the senior lawyers for Chidambaram.
They also argued that there were no chances of Chidambaram, a sitting Rajya Sabha MP, fleeing from law. Since the documents are already with the government, there is no apprehension of tampering of evidence, they added.
Ever since the Delhi High Court had rejected his application for pre-arrest bail on August 20, the CBI had been attempting to execute the arrest warrant issued against him, while his lawyers sought urgent listing of the matter before the Supreme Court. The SC however refused urgent hearing of the matter on August 21, leading to his arrest later on that day at night, after he made a dramatic press conference denying the allegations against him.
The Delhi High Court dismissed his application for anticipatory bail after observing that it was a "classic case of money laundering". Chidambaram was termed the "kingpin and key conspirator" of the alleged corruption deal.
On September 5, the SC bench of Justices R Banumathi and Bopanna had dismissed his application for pre-arrest bail in the case registered by ED alleging money laundering with respect to INX transaction.