The Delhi High Court (HC) on Monday denied bail to former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, saying the investigation was at an advanced stage and his influencing the witnesses cannot be ruled out. Dismissing the bail application, Justice Suresh Kait pointed out that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in a sealed cover informed that Chidambaram approached two co-accused and told them not to disclose any information.
“As argued by learned Solicitor General, (which is part of the Sealed Cover) two material witnesses (accused) have been approached to not disclose any information regarding the petitioner and his son (co-accused). This Court cannot dispute the fact that the petitioner has been a strong Finance Minister and Home Minister and presently Member of the Indian Parliament.
Chidambaram, 74, is in custody since his arrest by the CBI on August 21 and the trial court sent him in judicial custody in prison on September 5.
“He is a respectable member of Bar Association of Supreme Court of India. He has long-standing in BAR as a Senior Advocate. He has deep roots in the Indian Society and maybe some connection in abroad. But, the fact that he will not influence the witness directly or indirectly cannot be ruled out in view of the above fact. Moreover, the investigation is at an advanced stage, therefore this court is not inclined to grant bail,” said the Judgment.
“The economic offences constitute a class apart and a class by itself, as it cuts the very root of probity and purity of public administration and results in eroding the public confidence which it reposes on the Government elected by it,” Justice Suresh Kait said while dismissing the bail petition.
Meanwhile, the Court rejected CBI arguments that Chidambaram is a flight risk and would tamper evidence. Regarding the flight risk, the judge said it can be secured by putting conditions including the surrender of passport, issuance of lookout notice and the accused not being allowed to leave the country without the permission of the court (even via Nepal and Bhutan).
“There is no evidence on record that Chidambaram tried to flee from India,” the court said, adding that the situation of flight risk is possible only if no lookout notice is issued or an accused is not of so popular and can leave the country based upon forged passport in the name of other persons.
On the point of evidence tampering, the court said the documents relating to the case are in the custody of the CBI, the government and the court. “The petitioner is not in power except he is a Member of Parliament. Therefore, in my considered view, there is no chance of Chidambaram tampering with the evidence…,” the judge said.
The court said it was on record that illegal gratification has been paid by and through other companies by Indrani and Peter to the firms controlled and owned by the “co-conspirator and co-accused Karti”.
“It is also on record that no services were rendered by these companies owned and controlled by Chidambaram and Karti to the companies from where the huge sums of money are received,” it noted.
The court said the investigation has also revealed that contemporaneously large number of e-mails were exchanged between the representatives of INX Media and the company controlled by Chidambaram and his son, pertaining to grant of FIPB approval to the company. It cited a verdict of the Supreme Court that the 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.
Chidambaram, 74, is in custody since his arrest by the CBI on August 21 and the trial court sent him in judicial custody in prison on September 5. He will be produced in the trial court on October 3, the end of his judicial custody which is expected to be extended in the wake of denial of bail from the High Court.