Nalini Chidambaram, a senior advocate and wife of former Union minister P Chidambaram, and her son Karti Chidambaram today got relief from the Supreme Court in Saradha chitfund and INX media cases respectively. The top court restrained Enforcement Directorate (ED) from taking any coercive action against Nalini Chidambaram in the Saradha chitfund case.
It also refused to interfere with an order granting bail to Karti Chidambaram in the INX media case. A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan issued a notice to the ED on a plea by Nalini Chidambaram challenging dismissal of her plea by the Madras High Court against the summons issued in a case related to Saradha chit fund scam.
It restrained the ED from taking any coercive action against Nalini Chidambaram in the case. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for her, said that the issue was covered by apex court judgement. The bench said it was issuing a notice to the ED and seeking its reply in four weeks.
In another case of Karti Chidambaram, the bench refused to interfere with the high court order granting bail to him, saying that in the question of liberty, the court did not usually go into technicalities.
“By the impugned order the high court has granted bail to the respondent (Karti) herein. Insofar as grant of bail by the high court is concerned, we do not find any reason to interfere with the said order,” the bench said and dismissed the plea of the CBI challenging the bail order.
It, however, said, that the observations made by the high court “in the impugned order keeping in mind as to whether the respondent was entitled to bail or not and such observations shall not influence any other proceedings and all other proceedings shall be dealt with on its own merits”.
It left the question open, as to whether the accused could approach the high court for bail, invoking its concurrent jurisdiction, even when his bail application was pending before the trial court.
The bench said, “It is not necessary to enter in this controversy in the present petition. Pending applications, if any, shall also stand disposed of”.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, said this question of law had to be kept open as invoking powers of concurrent jurisdiction of the high court might be a case of “forum shopping”.
Sibal, appearing for Karti Chidamabaram, said there was already a judgement in which concurrent jurisdiction of high court could be invoked.
On June 25, the CBI had moved the apex court challenging the high court order granting bail to Karti Chidambaram.
The probe agency claimed in its appeal that it was “impermissible in law” for the high court to entertain Karti Chidambaram’s bail plea when an application seeking a similar relief was pending before the trial court.
On March 23, a single judge bench of the high court granted bail to Karti Chidambaram, who was arrested on February 28 by the CBI, saying the relief should not be refused unless the crime was of the “highest magnitude” entailing “severe punishment”.
He was arrested from Chennai in connection with an FIR lodged on May 15 last year, which had alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to INX Media for receiving funds of about Rs 305 crore from overseas in 2007 when his father was the Union finance minister.
Both P Chidambaram and Karti Chidambaram denied all allegations made by CBI, as well as the Enforcement Directorate. The CBI initially alleged that Karti Chidambaram received Rs 10 lakh as bribe for facilitating the FIPB clearance to INX Media. It later revised the figure to USD 1 million.
In Nalini Chidambaram’s case the Madras High Court had on July 10 dismissed against a single judge bench’s order rejecting her plea challenging the ED summons.
The high court had said that Section 50 (2) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) gave sufficient ammunition to an authority to summon any person whose attendance was considered necessary for investigation.
It had also rejected her contention that women could not be called for investigation out of their place of residence under CrPC Section 160, saying she was not entitled to invoke the section.
The impugned notice was issued on finding certain new facts and contradiction in the statements given, which could not be satisfactorily explained by the authorised agent.
The ED had issued the first summons on September 7, 2016, asking Nalini Chidambaram to appear before it at its Kolkata office. It subsequently issued fresh summons after the single judge’s order.
She was allegedly paid a legal fee of Rs 1 crore by the Saradha group for her appearances in court and the Company Law Board over a television channel purchase deal.
In the appeal, she contended that if the trend of summoning and calling advocates who were engaged by their clients for rendering professional services was not nipped in the bud, it might lead to “disastrous consequences”.