Sunday, November 1, 2020

India: Court refuses bail to ex-finance minister Chidambaram in INX Media corruption case


The Delhi high court on Monday refused to grant bail to former finance minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media corruption case. Chidambaram, 74, was arrested by the CBI on August 21 from his Jor Bagh residence here and is under judicial custody in Tihar Jail till October 3.

The CBI had on Friday opposed Chidambaram’s bail plea contending that he is a flight risk as he is accused of a serious offence and knows that his conviction is likely.

The probe agency, which was represented by a battery of lawyers, including Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and senior advocate Amit Mahajan, had argued that Chidambaram has resources to sustain himself in another country indefinitely and should not be released on bail till the trial in the case is over.

After listening to the arguments of both sides, Justice Suresh Kait decided Chidambaram’s bail petition on three grounds — flight risk, tampering with evidence and influencing witnesses.

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Flight risk

On the issue of flight risk being raised by the CBI, the court said there was no evidence that Chidambaram ever tried to flee from India and a look out circular has already been issued by the authorities against him.

Tampering with evidence

Regarding CBI’s contention that Chidambaram may tamper with evidence if released on bail, the court said it is not in dispute that the documents relating to the case are already in the custody of the probe agency and he is not in power except that he is an MP.

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So there is no chance of tampering with the evidence, the judge said while agreeing with the submission of Chidambaram’s counsel on the issue.

Influencing witnesses

The court agreed with the CBI that the possibility of Chidambaram influencing witnesses cannot be ruled out.

The court noted that he was a strong home minister and finance minister, is a member of Parliament (MP) at present, and has a long standing as an advocate.

Claiming that economic offences affect the financial stability of the country, the CBI had told the court that Chidambaram should not be granted bail as the agency has exposed the evidence to him during his custodial interrogation and if released, he will influence the witnesses.

The court accepted this contention of the CBI while denying bail to the Congress leader.

Earlier, Chidambaram had claimed in his petition filed through advocate Arshdepe Singh, that hundreds of delegations come to the finance minister and he has no recollection on INX Media’s delegation.

However, CBI had said that Chidambaram had met Indrani and during investigation, they have come to know that the visitor register of the office of finance minister was not available and has been weeded out but they have the details of the car by which Indrani and her husband Peter had traveled from the hotel to his office.

Chidambaram did not approach the trial court and had directly filed the regular bail plea in the high court.

The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as the finance minister.

Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.


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