The Supreme Court of India has awarded P. Chidambaram an early Christmas cheer by finally granting the former Union minister bail he had been so desperately seeking for the last three and a half months.
Chidambaram, a Rajya Sabha member, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on August 21 for alleged irregularities in the grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media to receive overseas funds to the tune of Rs 307 crore in 2007, when the Congress politician was finance minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
Other senior officials, who were responsible for the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) affairs at the time of this deal, had also said in their statements to probe agencies that violation of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules should have been referred to the RBI rather than being summarily approved.
Former DEA secretary D Subbarao had told investigators probing the INX Media money laundering and corruption case that “violations” in the deal approving FDI for the company were not brought to the notice of the FIPB, reveal official records.
In his testimony, Subbarao has stated that the FIPB approval for M/s INX Media was for 46.216% of its shareholding, amounting to Rs 4.62 crore only.
The violation in plain words
Indrani and Peter Mukerjea’s INX Media had sought foreign investment for which permission was granted for Rs 4.62 crore, according to the CBI. The company allegedly violated FIPB norms, generated more than Rs 305 crore of foreign direct investment (FDI) in INX Media by issuing shares to foreign investors at a premium of more than Rs 800 per share.
Alleged favour for his son Karti Chidambaram
The allegation of corruption made by INX media’s Indrani Mukerjea against P Chidambaram is that he sought Indrani and INX to do a deal favouring his son Karti Chidambaram in exchange for the approval. Indrani alleges INX did what it was asked to. As a result, turning a blind eye to raising Rs 305 crore instead of Rs 4.6 crore and summarily approving their application, the paperwork was not put through the rigor of proper process.
Thus his arrest for money laundering charges by the ED and now he is finally out on bail.
The Supreme Court has told Chidambaram not to comment as the case was sub judice.
“I cannot comment on the case. I will obey the honourable Supreme Court’s order and not speak about the case. But the fact is, after 106 days of pre-trial incarceration, not a single charge has been framed against me as we speak to you now – not one charge has been framed against me”, said Chidambaram.
He has been told not to fly overseas without Court’s permission.
“Phew. At last after 106 days,” tweeted Chidambaram’s son, Karti Chidambaram, after the verdict.
Phew. At last after 106 days 🙂
— Karti P Chidambaram (@KartiPC) December 4, 2019
Chidambaram’s son Karti, who was waiting outside the jail to receive his father along with scores of supporters, said he was elated. “It has been a long wait. I am very grateful that the Supreme Court has given him bail. I am very grateful to entire top Congress leadership, including Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra who have supported him through all this,” he told reporters.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hit out at the government. “Mr P Chidambaram’s 106 day incarceration was vengeful and vindictive. I’m glad that the SC has granted him bail. I’m confident that he will be able to prove his innocence in a fair trial,” he tweeted.
Mr P Chidambaram’s 106 day incarceration was vengeful & vindictive. I'm glad that the SC has granted him bail. I'm confident that he will be able to prove his innocence in a fair trial.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 4, 2019
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by justice R Banumathi granted bail to Chidambaram, citing his age and ill health, having suffered two bouts of illness during his time in prison.
The court also concluded that Chidambaram was not a flight risk and that there was no possibility of him tampering with evidence or influencing witnesses.
Thus he passed the so-called triple test required for grant of bail.
The court added that Chidambaram would have to join further investigations if asked to.
The court also ordered him to furnish a personal bond of Rs 2 Lakh as well as two sureties of the same amount.
The top has court ordered Chidambaram not to give any media interviews or make any statements on the case. While observing that economic offences were grave in nature, the court said “grant of bail is a rule and refusal is an exception”.
Chidambaram had approached the Supreme Court after on November 15 the Delhi high court refused his bail application. He had been granted bail in the CBI case of corruption on October 22, but had also been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate for economic offences and money laundering.
That bail, has now been granted.
Replying to the argument that an economic crime could be a “grave offence”, Chidambaram’s argument was that the charges against him were not “grave” because they were not linked to terror or child abuse, and nor was he a habitual offender.
Does that mean hundreds of crores of corruption money involved for the first few times – isn’t grave enough? The answer is obvious but Chidambaram’s lawyers were able to convince the Supreme Court
According to P Chidambaram, despite the agencies overdrive for the last 106 days, not a single charge against him has been framed, suggesting his innocence.
In a tweet, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said that the Congress’s response was a “classic case” of the party celebrating corruption. He added that finally Chidambaram, too, joins the long list of “OOBC (Out On Bail Club)” leaders in the Congress.
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