INX Media case: Chidambaram moves Delhi HC for bail, hearing on Tuesday

P Chidambaram

Former finance minister P Chidambaram, lodged in Tihar jail in the INX Media corruption case, moved the Delhi High Court Wednesday seeking bail claiming that the criminal proceedings against him were "mala fide" and borne out of "political vendetta".

Chidambaram has also filed another plea in the high court challenging the trial court's September 5 order remanding him to 14-day judicial custody in the case till September 19, saying it was a "completely unreasoned and non-speaking" order.

Both the petitions of the senior Congress leader have been listed for hearing on Thursday before Justice Suresh Kait.

Chidambaram, 73, who was arrested on August 21 by the CBI, did not approach the trial court and directly filed the regular bail plea in the high court.

He has sought bail saying that he is a law-abiding citizen having deep roots in the society and is not a flight risk and is willing to abide by all conditions as may be imposed by the high court while granting him the relief.

"From a bare perusal of the remand applications, without admitting the allegations made therein, it is evident that the instant case is a documentary case. Further, the petitioner is a respectable citizen and a former Union Minister of Finance and Union Minister of Home Affairs. The petitioner cannot and will not tamper with the documentary record of the instant case, which is currently in the safe and secure possession of the incumbent Government or the trial court," said the plea, filed through advocate Arshdeep Singh.

Challenging the order remanding him to judicial custody, the petition said: "Chidambaram is the political opponent of the party in power and it is a clear case of political vendetta wherein the decision taken by the members of the FIPB unit and the FIPB board (consisting six secretaries of the government) and only approved by him in his capacity as the then finance minister, in relation to grant of FIPB approval for FDI in a company namely INX Media in 2008."

Chidambaram, a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, said: "The criminal proceedings against him are mala fide and borne out of political vendetta and the investigation agency is acting at the behest of the central government which wants to malign his untainted and impeccable reputation."

He said a bare perusal of trial court's judicial custody remand order showed that it has been passed as a matter of course and it has not appreciated that the liberty of an individual was involved.

"The material on record shows that the investigation was over as far back as January 2019 when sanction was sought against him.

"The investigation qua Chidambaram is over since he has already undergone the maximum permissible CBI/ police custody remand of 15 days," the plea said.

Grant of judicial custody remand on the basis of mere apprehensions of the CBI of tampering with evidence and influencing the witnesses is patently illegal, it said.

Seeking bail, Chidambaram claimed in his petition that he has always cooperated in the investigation and will continue to do so in future as and when called by the investigating agency or the trial court.

He added that all other accused in the case, including his son Karti and INX Media former promoters Indrani and Peter Mukherjea, have already been enlarged on regular bail or anticipatory bail or statutory bail.

The trial court, while remanding Chidambaram to judicial custody, had issued directions for keeping him in a separate cell in Tihar prison as he was a protectee under Z-security.

It had also issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Chidambaram's separate plea seeking to surrender in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the agency in which the Supreme Court had last Thursday dismissed his plea against the August 20 order of the Delhi High Court denying him pre-arrest bail.

Chidambaram had withdrawn from the Supreme Court his petition challenging the non-bailable warrant issued against him.

On the same day, another special court granted Chidambaram and his son Karti anticipatory bail in the Aircel Maxis cases lodged by CBI and ED.

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

Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.

Chidambaram, who was the Union home minister and the finance minister during the UPA rule from 2004 to 2014, was arrested by the CBI on August 21 from his Jor Bagh residence.

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