INX Media Case: Chidambaram Tells High Court No Allegation Against Him For Influencing Witnesses
Former finance minister P Chidambaram, arrested in the INX Media corruption case, told the Delhi High Court on Monday that there was no allegation against him about trying to influence anyone related to the matter since 2007.
Chidambaram denied the Central Bureau of Investigation’s claim that after being interrogated during the police custody, he is well acquainted with the fresh evidence and there is every possibility of him influencing the witnesses and tampering with the record.
Chidambaram, 74, arrested by the CBI on Aug. 21 and in judicial custody, made the submission while seeking bail in the case
He was responding to the claims of the investigative agency which has opposed his plea.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait was told by senior advocate Kapil Sibal that as per the normal procedure, the foreign direct investment proposal of INX Media was processed by several officers in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board unit; thereafter, it was put up to the FIPB comprising of six secretaries who after due consideration, made its recommendations to the Ministry of Finance.
After the file went through several levels, it came before Chidambaram, the then finance minister, and he approved it, Sibal said, adding that the alleged offence took place in 2007-08 and the FIR was lodged in May 2017, when there was no allegation that he tried to influence anyone.
"All the six secretaries were right in their decision. There was no allegation that I influenced them. I have been confronted with them. They said what they did was right. Why I am being singled out. I only accepted the recommendations and I am in jail. Those who made the recommendations are out," Sibal contended on behalf of Chidambaram.
"Chidambaram has already been confronted with five officers of the Ministry of Finance who were involved in the processing of the FIPB proposal pertaining to INX Media and each of their statements have already been recorded by the CBI. As such, there arises no question of influencing any witnesses," he said in the rejoinder filed to CBI's reply on his bail plea.
He also denied that Chidambaram, who held a very high and influential office of the finance minister of the country, used the same for personal gains in connivance with his co-conspirators.
It is stoutly denied that this is a clear case of betrayal of public trust at large or that cogent evidence incriminating him in the offence was on record and a strong case has been made out against him, the rejoinder stated, adding that there was no loss to the public exchequer in this case.
In the rejoinder, Chidambaram said that a look out circular has already been issued against him and it is preposterous to allege that he is a flight risk and can evade the process of law.
The former finance minister also said that the Rs 305 crore which came to INX media as foreign direct investment was well within the approved percentage of 46.216 percent.
Sibal argued that FIPB approval is not for a particular amount but it is on percentage.
"No public funds were involved in this case and it is not a case of bank fraud or taking money out of the country or defrauding depositors in stealing money," he said.
Chidambaram said no credibility can be attached to Indrani Mukherjea, who has turned an approver in the corruption case, since she and her husband Peter Mukherjea were also being investigated by the CBI in a murder case.
Sibal's arguments remained inconclusive and will continue on Tuesday.
Chidambaram reiterated that neither the CBI nor the Enforcement Directorate have found an iota of evidence of any payment by INX Media or INX News to him.
"Further, not even an iota of evidence of any undisclosed bank account or undisclosed property or undisclosed shell company being owned/ held by Chidambaram has been found by the CBI or ED," the rejoinder said.
It said it is preposterous to even allege that Chidambaram is capable of influencing foreign sovereign governments and their institutions or investigating agencies from not sending their response to the Letters Rogatory sent by the CBI.
CBI in its reply filed in the court on Sept. 20, has opposed Chidambaram's bail plea in the corruption case, saying it is a "gravest case of economic offences" and the magnitude of financial embezzlement and misuse of high public office disentitles him for any relief.
It had said the gravity of offences committed by the former finance minister for which he is being investigated does not entitle him to seek any relief as it would not only be against the 'zero tolerance policy on corruption' but would also be setting a very wrong precedence in all corruption cases.
It said the investigation revealed that Chidambaram, as the finance minister, had demanded illegal gratification and the payments were made in India and overseas to him and his accused son Karti.
The agency had said despite his arrest, Chidambaram continued to remain evasive while replying the questions put to him during interrogation or confrontation.
Chidambaram, who was arrested on Aug. 21 by the CBI from his Jor Bagh residence here, is currently lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody till Oct. 3.
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the 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.