Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 20
Officials from the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate descended on Congress leader P.Chidambaram's residence at the national capital on Tuesday evening—hours after the Delhi High Court refused to grant him anticipatory bail.
The former finance minister was not home when they came.
The CBI team reached Chidambaram's residence around 6.30 pm and left 10 minutes later. The ED came to his house at around 7.30 pm.
The development came even as Chidamabaram, a former union minister, appealed the high court's order at the Supreme Court.
The high court rejected Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail application, and later refused to give him interim protection from arrest until Supreme Court heard his appeal. The Supreme Court refused an urgent hearing of Chidambaram's appeal—a second blow to the leader in a metter of hours.
The former union minister faces charges of corruption in INX media money laundering case.
At the Supreme Court, his counsel Kapil Sibal said since Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi—who is master of the roster—is part of the Constitution Bench hearing the Ayodhya case, he will mention Chidambaram's case before the court's most senior judge not sitting on that Bench on Wednesday.
Chidambaram and a battery of his lawyers were in hectic discussions after the Delhi High Court dismissed his anticipatory bail plea in the INX media scam.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Salman Khurshid rushed to the apex court following the high court order.
Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, who was arguing the case in the high court, also joined the discussions.
Sibal said the team is yet to get copy of the Delhi Court judgement.
He was asked by a Supreme Court official to place Chidambaram's petition before Registrar (judicial) who will take call on putting it before the Chief Justice of India.
Sibal met Registrar (judicial) Surya Pratap Singh and explained to him the situation and explored as to what could be done.
What HC said
Holding that the INX media scam was a "classic case of money laundering", the court also said the twin facts that have weighed to deny pre-arrest bail to Chidambaram are "gravity" of the offence and "evasive" replies given by him to questions put to him while he was under protective cover extended to him by the court.
A former union home and finance minister, Chidambaram, 73, also failed to get any immediate relief from the Supreme Court which was approached shortly after the high court cancelled the interim protection from arrest, paving the way for the investigating agencies—CBI and ED—to apprehend him.
"Granting bail in cases like the instant one will send a wrong message to the society," said Justice Sunil Gaur, who is due to retire on Thursday. The case also involved allegations of corruption.
Chidambaram got a reprieve from arrest after the high court granted interim protection on July 25, 2018 which was extended from time to time.
Holding that Chidambaram's custodial interrogation was required for an effective investigation, the court said "simply because he is a Member of Parliament would not justify grant of pre-arrest bail to him." Chidambaram is a Rajya Sabha MP.
Justice Gaur said the court cannot permit the prosecution in this "sensitive case to end up in smoke like it has happened in some other high profile cases". "Facts of the case prima facie reveal that petitioner(Chidambaram) is the king pin, that is, the key conspirator in this case. Law enforcing agencies cannot be made ineffective by putting legal obstacles of offences in question," the judge said in his 24-page judgment that set off a flurry of activity by top lawyer-turned politicians from the Congress to pre-empt any coercive action by the investigative agencies.
In its judgment, the high court said: "It cannot be forgotten that the petitioner (Chidambaram) was the finance minister at the relevant time and he had given FDI clearances to INX Media Group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore". "Simply because he is a Member of Parliament would not justify grant of pre-arrest bail to him. The magnitude of the offence dissuades this court to grant bail to the petitioner.
"It is preposterous to say that prosecution of the petitioner is baseless, politically motivated and an act of vendetta... The offenders must be exposed, no matter what their status is," the judge observed.
This court is of the prima facie opinion that custodial interrogation of petitioner is required for an effective investigation, the judge said.
The court said the gravity of offence committed in this case amply justify denial of pre-arrest bail and it was of the prima facie opinion that it was not a fit case for granting the relief to him.
"Economic offences constitute a class apart and need to be visited with a different approach in the matters of bail.
"Taking note of huge magnitude of conspiracy angle qua the petitioner, it would be premature to jump to a conclusion that the provision of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) would not apply to the instant case, as it cannot be said that the amount involved is below Rs 30 lakh. Rather money laundering involved in this INX Media scam is Rs 305 crore and Aircel-Maxis scandal is Rs 3,500 crore," it said.
"The court observed that the economic crimes of such "mammoth scale are craftily planned and executed".
"In this case, in view of the enormous material placed on record in respect of distinguished entities, various transactions etc, this court un-hesitantly opines that bail plea is not acceptable," it said.
CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance granted to the media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as finance minister.
The ED had in 2018 lodged the money laundering case in this regard. With agencies
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