Former Union minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti got a reprieve when a Delhi court on Monday extended till February 18 the interim protection from arrest granted to them in the alleged Aircel-Maxis scam, PTI reported.
Special CBI Judge O P Saini extended the relief to Chidambaram, noting that he will not be available on February 1 for which the matter was earlier listed.
In the previous hearing on January 11, the CBI had told the court that the Centre has granted sanction to prosecute five of the total 18 accused in the case, including serving and former bureaucrats. On November 16 last year, the CBI informed the court that a similar nod was procured for Chidambaram.
Chidambaram and Karti were named in the charge sheet filed by the CBI in the case on July 19 last year.
The case relates to alleged irregularities in grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval in the Aircel-Maxis deal. CBI is probing how Chidambaram, who was the finance minister in 2006, granted FIPB approval to a foreign firm, when only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it.
CBI and ED, in their replies to the anticipatory bail pleas of Chidambarams, had recently told the court that custodial interrogation of both the accused was required since various new materials have surfaced after filing of the charge sheet, alleging that they were not cooperating in the probe.
In response to a summons sent to him and his son Karti in the case and searches conducted at his premises, Chidambaram said the actions of CBI and ED were “political vendetta” and an attempt by the NDA government to “silence his voice”. The Chidambarams argued that the agencies had no locus standi to investigate them since all the named accused had been discharged. His protection from arrest has been extended from time to time.
In response, the CBI and ED argued that the accused had been discharged but the FIR stood, as it had not been quashed. The agencies not only challenged the lower court’s decision to discharge the accused but also informed the competent court that they were probing the Chidambarams’ role in connection with the granting of FIPB approval. In his appearances before CBI and ED, Chidambaram said all decisions with regard to the Aircel-Maxis deal were above board, recorded on file, and taken by the FIPB board.
The senior Congress leader and his son have come under the scanner of investigating agencies in the Rs 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case involving Rs 305 crore.
In its charge sheet filed earlier in the present case against former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and others, the CBI alleged that P Chidambaram granted FIPB approval in March 2006 to Mauritius-based Global Communication Services Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of Maxis.
The Maran brothers and the other accused named in the CBI charge sheet were discharged by the special court, which said the agency had failed to produce any material against them to proceed with the trial.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court asked the ED to decide on a date on which it would interrogate Karti in the INX Media and the Aircel Maxis cases. The bench, hearing Karti’s plea seeking permission to travel abroad, said that he will not be allowed to leave the country if he evades questioning by the ED.
Karti is facing criminal cases being investigated by the ED, one of which relates to Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media for receiving foreign funds of Rs 305 crore when his father was the finance minister.
(With inputs from PTI)
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