Chidambaram moves SC for bail in INX Media PMLA case; ED in HC over 'inadvertent error' in verdict

New Delhi, Nov 18 (PTI) Minutes after senior Congress leader P Chidambaram moved the Supreme Court on Monday seeking bail in the INX Media money laundering case, the ED approached the Delhi High Court seeking rectification of an 'inadvertent' error in the November 15 verdict denying him the relief.

Chidambaram approached the apex court challenging the judgement of the Delhi High Court denying him bail in the money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Later, the ED moved the high court with an application urging the court to correct the 'accidental slip /inadvertent error' in its November 15 verdict passed by Justice Suresh Kait who had denied bail to the 74-year old former finance minister.

As per ED's application, Justice Kait had referred to four paragraphs from a 2017 Supreme Court order rejecting bail to Delhi-based lawyer Rohit Tandon in a money laundering case in his November 15 verdict.

Tandon, who was arrested in 2016, is an accused in the demonetisation-related money laundering case.

The ED said: '...it appears that the said factual portion of the (Tandon) judgment relied by the ED instead of being quoted or summarised as the part of the relied upon judgment, has been inadvertently/accidently referred to in the order dated November 15 as the factual submissions made by the ED.' The Delhi High Court clarified that the facts of another case mentioned in the order denying bail to Chidambaram are only for reference.

The court's clarification came while taking up the matter suo motu (on its own) following news articles that there is 'cut and paste' work in the judgement.

In the apex court, Chidambaram's petition was mentioned before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde where senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the senior Congress leader, sought urgent listing of the plea.

Sibal told the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, that Chidambaram has been in jail for around 90 days.

'We will see,' the bench told Sibal, adding that the bail plea would come up for hearing either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Delhi High Court had on November 15 dismissed Chidambaram's bail plea in the case filed by the ED, saying prima facie allegations against him are serious in nature and he played an 'active and key role' in the offence.

Chidambaram was first arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case and was granted bail by the Supreme Court on October 22.

Chidambaram, who was arrested by the ED in the money laundering case on October 16, is presently in judicial custody till November 27 under the order of a trial court.

The CBI had registered the case on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in a 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 finance minister.

Thereafter, the ED had lodged a money laundering case in this regard in the same year.

In his plea in the apex court, Chidambaram has said the high court order denying him bail is 'erroneous, unsustainable and liable to be set aside'.

He said that on three factors -- flight risk, tampering with evidence and influencing witnesses -- the high court has held in his favour.

'It is also significant that in the present PMLA/ED case from the date of ED's police custody i.e. from October 17, 2019 up to date or even before, it is the admitted position that the petitioner (Chidambaram) has not been confronted by the ED with any other witness/ accused on any date despite incarceration in the ED case alone now being 30 days,' the plea said.

Chidambaram has claimed that the ED 'always intended to prolong' his incarceration by 'unlawful and dubious means' and never wanted his custody for genuine 'custodial/interrogative purposes'.

'The patent non application of mind in the impugned order (of the high court) is a distinct and separate ground for reversal of the impugned order and grant of bail,' it said.

'This is reflected in the clear insertion of facts relating to a distinct and different case of one Shri Rohit Tandon into the factual context of the case of the petitioner i.e., mixing up the facts of the case titled Rohit Tandon v. Directorate of Enforcement....as if they were the facts of the petitioner's case,' the plea said. It said that after over two years of investigation and 14 days of custodial interrogation of Chidambaram, ED has failed to identify even a single 'shell company' owned or controlled by the the senior Congress leader or any 'undisclosed foreign bank account' or any 'benami property' in his name.

The plea said that Chidambaram has 'no undisclosed bank accounts', either in India or abroad, or any shell companies.

While denying him bail in the ED case, the high court had said that the entire community is aggrieved if economic offenders, who ruin the economy of the state, are not brought to books.

The high court had said if bail is granted to Chidambaram in such a case of economic offence, wrong message will go to the public at large. PTI SKV HMP ABA MNL SJK SA