IMAGE: Former finance minister P Chidambaram arrives for questioning in the Aircel-Maxix case at CBI headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI Photo
Former finance minister P Chidambaram was questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation for nearly four hours on Wednesday in connection with alleged irregularities in clearances to foreign investments in INX media during his tenure.
The agency has alleged irregularities in the clearance of foreign investment in INX media, a venture promoted by former media baron Peter Mukerjea and his wife Indrani, both probed by the CBI in connection with the murder of their daughter Sheena Bora, sources said.
After coming out of CBI headquarters in New Delhi, Chidambaram said he had appeared before the CBI and the first information report did not contain any allegations against him.
'Questions and answers were based on the files of FIPB. Hence there was little to add to the record,' the Congress leader said on Twitter.
Sources said he was questioned as a suspect.
The sources said Chidambaram was asked to appear under Section 41(A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure wherein a police officer can call a person, whose arrest is not required, and against whom a reasonable complaint has been made, or credible information has been received, or a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed a cognizable offence, to appear before him or at such other place as may be specified in the notice.
Chidambaram's alleged role has come under the scanner of investigating agencies in connection with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance of Rs 305 crore given to INX media.
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15 last year for alleged irregularities in the FIPB clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when Chidambaram was the finance minister during the UPA-I government.
Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram was also arrested in the case for allegedly receiving funds to the tune of Rs 10 lakh.
The other accused in the case include then INX media director Indrani Mukerjea and the then INX news director, Peter Mukerjea, both in jail in the murder case of 24-year-old Sheena Bora, who was Indrani's daughter from previous marriage.
In another development, the Madras high court on Wednesday stayed the Income Tax Department's notices issued to Chidambaram seeking reopening of assessment of his I-T returns for 2011-12 as it suspected that his income chargeable to tax had escaped assessment.
Hearing a petition by Chidambaram, Justice T S Sivagnanam granted the interim stay on the proceedings pursuant to the notices dated March 27, 2018 and May 23, 2018 issued by the Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax, Chennai, for re-opening the assessment.
Directing the I-T authorities to file their counter within six weeks, the Judge posted the matter to July 16 for further hearing.
The judge had quashed similar I-T notices issued to Chidambaram pertaining to the assessment years 2009-10 and 2010-11 in November last year and January this year.
When the current petition came up for hearing, Justice Sivagnanam noted that the factual issue was identical to that of the earlier assessment years.
On the issue of reopening of assessment for 2009-10 and 2010-11, the court was convinced that it was not justified and had quashed the notices allowing the Congress leader's plea.
The judge on Wednesday noted that though the I-T department had filed appeals against the orders quashing the notices, they had not yet been stayed by the division bench hearing them.
"Therefore this court is of the view that the present impugned proceedings shall remain stayed till the department obtained orders from the first bench, hearing the appeals," Justice Sivagnanam said.
Chidambaram in his petition submitted that he had been selling raw coffee grown in his estate in Karnataka without curing and has been claiming exemption of the sale proceeds as agricultural income.
Accordingly, for the assessment year 2011-12, he had claimed exemption of Rs 43.37 lakh as agricultural income under section 10(1) of Income Tax Act.
However, the I-T department issued a notice dated March 27, 2018 under section 148 of the Income Tax Act stating that it had reason to believe that income chargeable to tax for the AY 2011-12 had escaped assessment.
After a communication by his Charted Accountant, the department by a letter dated May 23 last gave the reasons for the reassessment, he said. Contending that the reassessment notice was illegal and without jurisdiction, Chidambaram prayed the court to quash it.