"Flight risk" of economic offenders cannot be looked at as a national phenomenon, said the Supreme Court while rejecting the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's contention against grant of bail to P. Chidambaram.
Supreme Court On Tuesday granted bail to Chidambaram in the INX Media Case.
The bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi said that "flight risk" is to be considered on individual basis being uninfluenced by the unconnected cases, more so, when the personal liberty is involved.
In this regard, the bench, also comprising of Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Hrishikesh Roy, made these observations in the judgment:
"It is necessary for us to indicate that we are unable to accept the contention of the learned Solicitor General that "flight risk" of economic offenders should be looked at as a national phenomenon and be dealt with in that manner merely because certain other offenders have flown out of the country. The same cannot, in our view, be put in a straight-jacket formula so as to deny bail to the one who is before the Court, due to the conduct of other offenders, if the person under consideration is otherwise entitled to bail on the merits of his own case. Hence, in our view, such consideration including as to "flight risk" is to be made on individual basis being uninfluenced by the unconnected cases, more so, when the personal liberty is involved".
The High Court had held that Chidambaram is not a "flight risk" and there is "no possibility of his abscondence". Before the Apex Court, the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that when the accused is facing grave charges and when he entertains doubts of possibility of his being conviction, there is a "flight risk", as he has wherewithal to flee away from the country. On the other hand, P.Chidambaram submitted that being the Member of Parliament and a Senior Member of the Bar has strong roots in society and his passport having been surrendered and "look out notice" issued against him, there is no likelihood of his fleeing away from the country or his abscondence from the trial. The bench agreed with the latter submission.
While granting bail to Chidambaram, the bench noted that mere averments that the accused approached the witnesses and the assertion that the accused would further pressurize the witnesses, without any material basis cannot be the reason to deny regular bail.
The bench also noted that, in previous remand applications filed by CBI there were no allegations that the accused was trying to influence the witnesses and that any material witnesses (accused) have been approached not to disclose information about Chidambaram and his son. In the absence of any contemporaneous materials, no weight could be attached to the allegation that the appellant has been influencing the witnesses by approaching the witnesses, the court said. It observed:
"FIR was registered by the CBI on 15.05.2017. The appellant was granted interim protection on 31.05.2018 till 20.08.2019. Till the date, there has been no allegation regarding influencing of any witness by the appellant or his men directly or indirectly. In the number of remand applications, there was no whisper that any material witness has been approached not to disclose information about the appellant and his son. It appears that only at the time of opposing the bail and in the counter affidavit filed by the CBI before the High Court, the averments were made that "…..the appellant is trying to influence the witnesses and if enlarged on bail, would further pressurize the witnesses…..". CBI has no direct evidence against the appellant regarding the allegation of appellant directly or indirectly influencing the witnesses".
Click here to Read/Download Judgment