In a major relief to P Chidambaram, the Supreme Court Wednesday granted bail to the former finance minister and Congress leader in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). He has been in the custody for 105 days since August 21 when he was arrested by the CBI in connection with the case.
Pronouncing the order, a three-judge bench headed by Justice R Banumathi directed Chidambaram to furnish a bail bond of Rs 2 lakh with two sureties of the like amount. The court also stated that Chidambaram should not give press interviews in connection with the case, tamper with evidence or try to influence witnesses.
VIDEO | What is INX Media case?
Welcoming the top court’s decision, the Congress said truth finally prevails. However, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said “justice delayed is justice denied”, adding, “this should have been granted much earlier”.
Chidambaram’s son Karti, the MP from Shivaganga constituency, tweeted, “Phew. At last after 106 days.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said Chidambaram’s 106-day incarceration was vengeful and vindictive.
“P Chidambaram’s 106-day incarceration was vengeful and vindictive. I’m glad that the SC has granted him bail. I’m confident that he will be able to prove his innocence in a fair trial,” Gandhi said in a tweet.
Mr P Chidambaram’s 106 day incarceration was vengeful & vindictive. I’m glad that the SC has granted him bail. I’m confident that he will be able to prove his innocence in a fair trial.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 4, 2019
Last week, the apex court had reserved its judgment on the appeal filed by Chidambaram who challenged the November 15 verdict of the Delhi High Court denying him bail in the case.
During the course of the argument in the Supreme Court, the ED had claimed that the 74-year-old former finance minister continues to wield “substantial influence” on crucial witnesses in the case even from the custody, while Chidambaram said that the agency cannot “destroy” his career and reputation by making baseless allegations.
Opposing his bail plea, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, had maintained that economic offences like money laundering are grave in nature as they not only affect the nation’s economy but also shake people’s faith in the system, especially when it is committed by people in power.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A M Singhvi, representing the former union finance minister, had countered Mehta’s submissions and said there was neither any evidence linking Chidambaram directly or indirectly with the alleged offence nor there was any material to show that he had influenced witnesses or tampered with any evidence.
Chidambaram was first arrested by the CBI on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case and was granted bail by the top court on October 22. The ED had arrested him on October 16 in the money laundering case.
The CBI had registered an FIR in May 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the INX group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007. Chidambaram was Union Finance Minister at the time. Thereafter, the ED had lodged a money-laundering case.