The CBI on Friday urged the Delhi High Court to not grant bail to former Union minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media corruption case and asked that he be kept in custody during the trial, referring to the senior Congress leader as a “flight risk”.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Chidambaram, opposed the CBI’s contention, saying, “Offences of cheating and criminal conspiracy alleged against Mr Chidambaram are not grave in nature and he should be released on bail.” The senior counsel submitted that the offences for which Chidambaram has been booked carry only a punishment of up to seven years’ imprisonment.
However, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, countered their claim and said that gravity of offence is not decided by the punishment prescribed but the impact it has on the society. “He is a flight risk because (as) he is accused of a serious offence, he knows that conviction is likely and he has the resources to sustain himself in another country indefinitely,” Mehta told the court.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait reserved his order in Chidam-baram’s bail petition after hearing arguments from both sides.
Probing charges of corruption in the INX Media case, the CBI had arrested Chidambaram on August 21. The next day he was later remanded in CBI custody for 15 days, and is currently in judicial custody at Tihar jail till October 3. In the case, the remaining accused, including his son Karti Chidambaram, are either on anticipatory bail or regular bail.
Referring to Karti’s relief in the matter, SG Mehta on Friday argued that Chidambaram was not entitled for the same, as “corruption by a public officials breach the public trust and harm the financial stability of the country”.
Mehta argued that many documents were recovered and statements have been recorded which directly link the criminal conspiracy of illegal gratification to the petitioner (Chidambaram) and co-conspirator, his son.
Sibal informed that he was instructed by Chidambaram to clarify that he has never met INX Media co-owner Indrani Mukerjea, the approver in the case. He said that Chidambaram has “no recollection” of meeting a delegation of INX Media in his office in March 2007 but would nonetheless rely on the entries in the visitors’ book to confirm such a meeting.
To this, Mehta claimed that the “visitors’ book has been destroyed due to lapse of time”. “However, as per the entries of Oberoi Hotel, New Delhi, where Peter and Indrani (Mukerjea) stayed from March 6-9, 2007, an internal vehicle of the hotel was used by the two to visit the office of the then Finance Minister on March 9, 2007,” the SG said. He claimed Indrani said she and Peter met Chidambaram at his North Block office, who asked them to meet his son and suggested that they help him in his business.