Millennium Post

PC gets bail in CBI case

PC gets bail in CBI case

New Delhi: The CBI's charge sheet in the INX Media case against P Chidambaram, which agencies were hoping would be enough for the former Finance Minister's continued custody, has now proved the central agency's undoing as the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday granted bail to the veteran Congress leader in the CBI's INX Media case, for which he was arrested from his Jor Bagh home on the night of August 21.

The judgement by Justice R Banumathi pulled up the Central Bureau of Investigation for repeatedly arguing in court that Chidambaram was trying to influence witnesses in the case when "CBI has no direct evidence against the appellant (Chidambaram) regarding the allegation of appellant directly or indirectly influencing the witnesses".

In a scathing indictment, the Apex court order said that no particulars were produced before the High Court as to when and how those witnesses were approached or as to whether they were contacted through SMS, email, letter or telephonic call. "There is no material to show that the appellant or his men have been approaching the said witness so as to influence the witness not to depose against the appellant or his son", the judgement read.

Justice Banumathi said that in the six remand applications filed by the CBI after Chidambaram's arrest, none mention allegations of the Congress leader trying to influence witnesses, but Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has continually argued in court that at least one witness has said under Section 164 of CrPC that he was asked to not disclose any information about the Chidambarams.

In fact, the Delhi High Court order that had denied regular bail to Chidambaram on September 30 had agreed that he was not a flight risk and that there was no risk of him tampering with evidence as all documentary evidence is under the protection of government agencies. But the single judge bench had denied bail based on statements of two witnesses who claimed that they were asked not to say anything about the Chidambarams.

While the Supreme Court order acknowledged the fact that CBI had already filed a charge sheet in the case against Chidambaram, the charge sheet does not mention any allegations of influencing witnesses in the case.

Moreover, the chargesheet has also raised questions on the need for Chidambaram's custodial interrogation, as even after the full 15 days of police custody, the CBI was able to corroborate only Rs 9.96 lakh in bribe payments to one Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd, a company controlled by Karti Chidambaram. This despite the FIR in the case claiming that Rs 3.5 crore was paid in bribes to look the other way on the alleged violations of FDI rules.

However, the CBI has left the probe open, saying that Letter Rogatory (LRs) sent to five countries are awaited, which will give insight into Indrani Mukerjea's claims of having paid USD 5 million through overseas transactions for the deal that allowed Rs 403 crore worth of illegal FDI into her company INX Media and INX News.

Abhinay Lakshman

Abhinay Lakshman

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