While former finance minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday said that the FDI proposals in INX Media and INX News were cleared as a routine procedure by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), three of the then board members have said that they have little memory of the case, which was one of many cleared nine years ago.
“I am not following the events and I have no memory and no comments,” said Ajay Shanker, former secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), who was one of the members of the FIPB that examined and recommended for approval the FDI proposal of INX News in October 2008. Shanker, who was DIPP secretary from August 2007 to December 2009, made this remark when asked by The Indian Express about the process that was followed in clearing the proposal.
On October 24, 2008, Chidambaram had approved a total of 40 FDI proposals based on recommendation of the FIPB, resulting in total foreign investment of Rs 1,498.51 crore. INX News’s proposal entailing a downstream investment of Rs 26 crore was one of these proposals.
Another secretary who was then part of the FIPB, who did not wish to be identified, said the CBI would “do its due diligence in the case”.
“There is a long history to these proposals (of INX Media and INX News). I don’t have all the facts relating to the file now. But I am sure the CBI will do its due diligence and law will take its course. If somebody has done any wrong, it will come out in the investigation,” the secretary said.
Apart from the DIPP secretary, the FIPB comprises the commerce secretary, economic affairs secretary, overseas Indian affairs secretary and economic relations secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs. When asked about FIPB clearance given to the INX Media proposal, G K Pillai, who was commerce secretary from October 2006 to June 2009, said: “ I don’t remember this case at all. There were so many meetings (I used to attend), but I don’t remember this.”
The CBI on Monday filed an FIR against Chidambaram’s son Karti, and Indrani and Peter Mukerjea on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, receiving illegal gratification, influencing public servants and criminal misconduct. It is alleged that Karti received money from INX Media for using his influence to manipulate a tax probe against it in a case of violation of FIPB conditions to receive investment from Mauritius. In response, Chidambaram said that FIPB approval was granted in “hundreds of cases” and the government was using the CBI and other agencies to target his son Karti.