Former finance minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday got some relief from Supreme Court that granted him bail in the INX media case being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation. However, the bail remains partial because the apex court's order relates only to the CBI case, but he will continue to be in the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) custody, which is investigating financial aspects of the alleged scam. His ED custody is scheduled to end on 24 October 2019.
A bench headed by Justice R Banumathi and comprising Justice A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy granted bail to Chidambaram on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh with a surety of the same amount.
The Supreme Court's order came after the Congress leader challenged the Delhi High Court's order denying him bail. The top court said Chidambaram be released on bail if not required in any other case.
Criticising the 30 September Delhi High order that denied Chidambaram bail, the Supreme Court said the high court should not have gone into the merits of the case while deciding Chidambaram's petition. The court also rejected CBI's contentions to the bail plea stating that there was no evidence to suggest that Chidambaram had influenced witnesses in the past or was at flight risk. In fact, Chidambaram was on anticipatory bail since an year, before CBI arrested him. The bench also said that other criminals have fled India, does not imply that Chidambaram will also leave the country.
The bench made it clear that Chidambaram will not leave the country without prior permission of the court and make himself available for interrogation as and when called by the probe agency.
The bench clarified that its observation in the order granting bail to Chidambaram in the INX Media corruption case would not have any bearing on other pending cases against him.
Chidambaram is presently lodged in the Tihar Jail in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED). He was arrested in connection with the graft case on 21 August by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has recently charge-sheeted him and others, including his son Karti, for causing a loss to the public exchequer. He has been charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act of Indian Penal Code.
The top court also dismissed the CBI's plea challenging the findings of the high court which had said that Chidambaram was not a flight risk and cannot tamper with the evidence.
The CBI registered an FIR on 15 May, 2017 alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007, during Chidambaram's tenure as the finance minister. Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.
With inputs from PTI.