The CBI Friday opposed the bail plea of former finance minister P Chidambaram, arrested in the INX Media corruption case, contending that he is a flight risk as he is accused of a serious offence and knows that his conviction is likely.
It argued that the veteran Congress leader has resources to sustain himself in another country indefinitely and should not be released on bail till the trial in the case is over.
Justice Suresh Kait reserved the order on 74-year-old Chidambaram’s bail petition, after extensively hearing the counsels for the politician and the CBI.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, said economic offences affect the financial stability of the country and Chidambaram should not be granted bail as the agency has exposed the evidence to him during his custodial interrogation and if released, he will influence the witnesses.
He also pointed out that various tweets have been put out on social media on behalf of Chidambaram, 74, who is in custody since his arrest on August 21.
“Another issue is use of social media by Chidambaram. He is found to be tweeting or someone else is tweeting on his behalf. This shows it is an attempt to influence the case and the investigation. Influential people are trying to influence of proceedings against them by using social media such as Twitter,” he contended.
At the outset of the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, said he has got instruction from his client that hundreds of delegations come to the finance minister and he has no recollection on INX Media’s delegation.
“I (Chidambaram) have never met Indrani Mukherjea at any place. The log book will have the entry of visitors, I will go by the log book,” he said.
Mehta maintained that Chidambaram had met Indrani and during investigation, they have come to know that the visitor register of the office of finance minister was not available and has been weeded out but they have the details of the car by which Indrani and her husband Peter had travelled from the hotel to his office.
He said bail should not be granted as the case was at pre-charge sheet stage and the investigation was going on and referred to the orders of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court denying anticipatory bail to Chidambaram.
“I am not saying that Chidambaram is not a responsible and respectable person. The aspect of flight risk has nothing to do with the personal integrity of an individual. There have been instances when respectable and responsible persons having huge businesses have run away from the country.
“He is a flight risk because he is accused of a serious offence, he knows that his conviction is likely and he has the resources to sustain himself in another country indefinitely,” Mehta said.
He contended that “the co-conspirator has destroyed material evidence, and there is evidence to this. If released on bail, Chidambaram is most likely to influence witnesses and he has potential, means and power to do it”.
Chidambaram’s counsel had earlier contended that it was not a case of taking out money from the country or cheating a bank and instead money has come in and it was not an economic offence, as alleged by the agency.
Chidambaram has denied that he used the influential office of the finance minister for personal gains in connivance with his co-conspirators.
He has said that a look out circular has already been issued against him and it is preposterous to allege that he is a flight risk and can evade the process of law.
He has said the Rs 305 crore which came to INX media as foreign direct investment were well within the approved percentage of 46.216 per cent.
The CBI in its reply has said the gravity of offences committed by Chidambaram for which he is being investigated does not entitle him to seek any relief as it would not only be against the ‘zero tolerance policy on corruption’ but would also be setting a very wrong precedence in all corruption cases.
It has said the investigation revealed that Chidambaram, as the finance minister, had demanded illegal gratification and the payments were made in India and overseas to him and his accused son Karti.
Besides Sibal, a battery of senior lawyers, including A M Singhvi, Dayan Krishnan and A S Chandhiok, appeared for Chidambaram.
Chidambaram, who was arrested on August 21 by the CBI, did not approach the trial court and had directly filed the regular bail plea in the high court. He was arrested from his Jor Bagh residence here and is in Tihar Jail under judicial custody till October 3.
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the 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.
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