The Delhi High Court Monday denied bail to senior Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram, who has been in judicial custody following his arrest by the CBI in the INX Media case, on the ground that the possibility of him not influencing witnesses while out on bail, “directly or indirectly, cannot be ruled out”.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait said: “A murder may be committed in the heat of moment upon passions being aroused. However, an economic offence is committed with cool calculation and deliberate design with an eye on personal profit, regardless of the consequence to the community.”
In his order, Justice Kait referred to material handed in a “sealed cover” — the CBI had registered an FIR in May 2017, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as Finance Minister — and said: “During investigation, as per ‘Sealed Cover’, it is revealed that Indrani Mukerjea and Peter Mukerjea (accused) met the petitioner even before the filing of application before FIPB Unit during which the petitioner assured them regarding the FIPB approval and, in lieu thereof, directed that the business interest of his son Karti Chidambaram, who is also an accused, should be taken care of and certain overseas transactions should made in his favour.”
“It is also on record that large sums of monies has come into the companies owned and/or controlled by the co-conspirator Karti P Chidambaram during the relevant period for the favours shown by the petitioner to INX Media,” the order noted.
Holding that the “order of remand, for judicial custody, of the trial court is justified”, Justice Kait said: “It cannot be disputed that if the case is proved against the petitioner (Chidambaram), the offence is on the society, economy, financial stability and integrity of the country.”
“It is a fact that the entire community is aggrieved if the economic offenders, who ruin the economy of the state, are not brought to book as such offences affect the very fabric of democratic governance and probity in public life,” he said.
Justice Kait also considered the submission of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that two material witnesses have been approached by the accused “not to disclose” any information regarding him and his son Karti.
“This court cannot dispute the fact that the petitioner has been a strong Finance Minister and Home Minister and presently, Member of Indian Parliament. He is a respectable member of the Bar Association of Supreme Court of India. He has long standing in the Bar as a Senior Advocate.”
“He has deep roots in the Indian society and may be some connection abroad. But the fact that he will not influence the witnesses, directly or indirectly, cannot be ruled out… Moreover, the investigation is at an advanced stage… therefore, this court is not inclined to grant bail,” Justice Kait said.
He did not, however, agree with the SG’s contention of Chidambaram being a flight risk or the possibility of tampering with evidence. “…there is no evidence on record that the petitioner tried to flee from India. The situation of ‘Flight-Risk’ is possible only if no lookout notice is issued or an accused is not so popular and can leave the country based upon forged passport in the name of other persons…”.
On the possibility of evidence tampering, he said it is not in dispute that documents relating to the present case are in the custody of the prosecuting agency, Government of India and the court.
“Moreover, the petitioner is not in power, except he is a Member of Parliament. Therefore, in my considered view, there is no chance of the petitioner tampering with the evidence,” he said.
Probing charges of corruption in the INX Media case, the CBI had arrested Chidambaram on August 21 night. The next day he was remanded in CBI custody. He is now in judicial custody in Tihar Jail till October 3.