In High Court bail denial to Chidambaram, ‘copy, paste’; matter in SC today

Pritam Pal Singh
Similarities with HC, SC orders, ED affidavit.

Portions of the November 15 order of the Delhi High Court dismissing the bail plea of Congress leader P Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case, it has emerged, bear striking resemblance to both a previous High Court order as well as a Supreme Court decision on the bail plea of lawyer Rohit Tandon, arrested in several money laundering cases (he is currently out on bail).

Justice Suresh Kumar Kait’s 41-page judgment denying bail to the 74-year-old Congress leader also, in parts, resembles the counter-affidavit filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) during the course of the proceedings.

This emerged after Justice Kait’s order was uploaded late on Saturday evening. Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represents Chidambaram, said they would raise this when the matter comes up in the Supreme Court on Monday.

Incidentally, on Friday, while opposing the ED plea challenging bail granted by the Delhi High Court to his client, Karnataka Congress leader D K Shivakumar, in the Supreme Court, Singhvi had submitted that some parts of the agency’s petition were copy-pasted from its affidavit in the Chidambaram case. The ED petition in Shivakumar case referred to the accused as former Union minister and former home minister.

In his order rejecting bail for Chidambaram, Justice Kait wrote, “It is alleged that during the period from 15.11.2016 to 19.11.2016 huge cash to the tune of Rs 31.75 crore was deposited in eight bank accounts in Kotak Mahindra Bank in the accounts of “group of companies”.” The same line figures in an order by another judge of the high court while denying bail to Tandon, in May 2017.

There are other common portions — “It (the ED) gives details of demand draft issued from 15.11.2016 to 19.11.2016 from eight bank accounts in the name of Sunil Kumar, Dinesh Kumar, Abhilasha Dubey, Madan Kumar, Madan Saini, Satya Narain Dagdi and Seema Bai on various dates. Most of the Demand Drafts issued have since been recovered.” And, “The statements recorded during investigation have evidentiary value under Section 50 PMLA. Prima facie, the version given by them is in consonance with the prosecution case. The prosecution has further relied upon call data records, CCTV footage. Account Trend Analysis.”

The portions in Justice Kait’s order common to the Supreme Court decision on Tandon’s bail last year are: “...The stated activity allegedly indulged into by the accused named in the commission of predicate offence is replete with mens rea. In that, the concealment, possession, acquisition or use of the property by projecting or claiming it as untainted property and converting the same by bank drafts, would certainly come within the sweep of criminal activity relating to a scheduled offence. That would come within the meaning of Section 3 and punishable under Section 4 of the Act.”

The High Court order denying bail to Chidambaram says: “The Economic offences in itself are considered to be the gravest offence against the society at large and hence are required to be treated differently in the matter of bail. The courts have successively held that a murder may be committed in the heat of moment upon passions being aroused. An economic offence is committed with cool calculation and deliberate design with an eye on personal profits regardless of the consequence to the community. A disregard for the interest of the community can be manifested only at the cost of forfeiting the trust and faith of the community in the system to administer justice in an even handed manner without fear of criticism from the quarters which view white collar crimes with a permissive eye, unmindful of the damage done to the national economy and national interest.”

Para 9 in the ED’s counter-affidavit submitted in the Chidambaram case states: “... economic offences in itself are considered to be the gravest offence against the society at large and hence are required to be treated differently in the matter of bail... A disregard for the interest of the Community can be manifested only at the cost of forfeiting the trust and faith of the Community in the system to administer justice in an even handed manner without fear of criticism from the quarters which view white collar crimes with a permissive eye unmindful of the damage done to the national economy and national interest.”