Supreme Court to deliver verdict on Chidambaram bail plea in INX Media case today

The Supreme Court will pronounce its verdict jon Wednesday on former Union finance minister P Chidambaram’s bail plea in the INX Media case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

A bench of justices R Banumathi, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy will decide whether the Congress leader’s incarceration of 105 days will come to an end. The verdict will be pronounced at 10.30 am in courtroom 5 of the apex court.

Chidambaram, who was arrested by the Central Bureau o Investigation (CBI) on August 21 in the INX Media case, was initially in police custody and was subsequently remanded to judicial custody and sent to Tihar jail.

He was granted bail by the Supreme Court in the CBI case on October 22. The ED arrested him before that for separate offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in relation to the same case. Bail in the ED case was rejected by Delhi high court on November 15. Chidambaram then appealed against that Delhi high court judgment to the Supreme Court.

Chidambaram has questioned the rationale of the Delhi high court judgment in rejecting his bail plea. The high court in its judgment had rejected the arguments of the ED on theso-called triple test for granting bail. As per the test, the grant of bail rests on whether the accused is a flight risk, whether he would tamper with evidence or influence witnesses.

Despite rejecting these concerns, the high court had refused to grant bail to Chidambaram on the ground that economic offences as in the present case are “gravest offences against the society at large” and are, hence, required to be treated differently when it comes to grant of bail.

Chidambaram vehemently attacked the logic of the high court and submitted that gravity of offence can be a ground for denial of bail only in extraordinary cases where the accused is a habitual offender, child molester or terrorist.

“If I am not released on bail, it will send a wrong message to this country”, senior counsel Kapil Sibal appearing for Chidambaram had told the court.

Sibal also argued that Chidambaram was being portrayed as the kingpin in the case only because he is the father of Karti Chidambaram, who is also an accused in the case.

“According to them, corruption money of Rs. 10 lakh was allegedly paid to Karti Chidambaram and since I am Karti Chidambaram’s father, I am (portrayed as) the kingpin.”

The central government had opposed the bail plea stating that Chidambaram wields substantial control over crucial witnesses who are afraid to testify against the former finance minister.

Centre’s second senior-most law officer, solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that one witness refused to come face-to-face with Chidambaram “because he is too powerful”.

“Two other witnesses did not even turn up. It shows the fear which he evokes in the witnesses”, Mehta argued.

The INX Media case pertains to alleged irregularities in 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 the finance minister.

During the investigation, ED had allegedly found documents linking INX Media to a company associated with Karti Chidambaram. The CBI registered a first information report (FIR) against P Chidambaram in 2017 for offences under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act. The ED lodged separate case against him under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in 2018.

Source : Hindustan Times

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