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Chidambaram to remain in jail as HC dismisses his bail plea

By Shikha Verma and Hary M Pillai
Last updated on: November 15, 2019 23:04 IST

Former finance minister P Chidambaram will remain in Tihar Jail with the Delhi high court dismissing his bail plea on Friday in the INX Media money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate, saying prima facie allegations against him are serious in nature and he played an 'active and key role' in the offence.

While denying him bail, Justice Suresh Kait said the entire community is aggrieved if economic offenders, who ruin the economy of the state, are not brought to books.

Chidambaram was first arrested by the CBI on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case and was granted bail by the Supreme Court on October 22.

The 74-year old senior Congress leader, who was arrested by the ED in the money laundering case on October 16, is in judicial custody till November 27 under the order of a trial court.

The court said if bail is granted to Chidambaram in such a case of economic offence, wrong message will go to the public at large.

 

"In view of the facts and circumstances, I am not inclined to grant bail to the petitioner (Chidambaram)," Justice Kait said.

'Prima facie the allegations are serious in nature and the petitioner has played active and key role in the present case. It cannot be disputed that 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,' the court said in its 41-page judgment dismissing his bail plea.

While pronouncing the verdict, Justice Kait said the material collected by the ED in the money laundering case is distinct, different and independent with that collected by the CBI in the corruption case.

Even the investigation done in this case is different from the CBI's case, the court said, adding that in cases of economic offences, the entire community gets affected.

'No doubt, bail is right and jail is exception, but, if bail is granted in such case, a wrong message goes to the public at large,' it said.

If Chidambaram would have been granted bail in the money laundering case, he would have been out of the jail as he was not arrested in any other case.

The judge made it clear that the observations made in this order are only in dealing the bail application, but not conclusive. Therefore, the observations shall not prejudice the case of Chidambaram in any manner, he said.

The court also noted that Chidambaram's son Karti, a co-accused in the case, is already out on bail.

The high court had reserved the order on November 8 on the bail petition after hearing the arguments of counsel for Chidambaram and the ED.

The case was registered by the CBI on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007, during Chidambaram's tenure as finance minister.

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

The 74-year-old senior Congress leader had sought bail saying as the evidence is documentary and in the custody of probe agencies, he cannot tamper them and the ED had opposed his plea on the ground that he has tried to influence and threaten witnesses.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the ED, had contended that the set of evidence in the money laundering case and the Central Bureau of Investigation corruption case is different and the PMLA case is more heinous and 'much, much, much more serious than it meets the eyes'.

"It is the gravest of grave offence as it is an economic offence which is a standalone offence," he had argued.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, had said since the beginning, the probe agency's case was never that the Congress leader tried to influence witnesses, but suddenly in October, when he was in custody, it was alleged that he had tried to put pressure and influence key witnesses.

Chidambaram had denied the ED's claim that he used the office of finance minister for personal gains and laundered the proceeds of crime, saying no material directly or indirectly linking him with the alleged offence has been put to him so far or placed before the court.

He had referred to the Supreme Court's October 22 order granting him bail in the CBI case and said it has stated there was no evidence of tampering, flight risk and influencing witnesses against him in the corruption case.

On November 1, the high court while disposing of the interim bail plea of Chidambaram, who was suffering from Crohn's disease, had directed the Tihar Jail superintendent to provide him clean and hygienic surroundings and also mineral water, home cooked food and mosquito protection nets and repellent.

He had sought anticipatory bail in the money laundering case from the high court which dismissed the plea. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court which also refused to grant him relief.

Shikha Verma and Hary M Pillai
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