P Chidambaram on the run like a common thief

Whether or not P Chidambaram will be nabbed by the Central Bureau of Investigation or the Enforcement Directorate before Friday when his prayer for anticipatory bail is scheduled to come up in the Supreme Court is immaterial. What is material is his decision to evade arrest, giving sleuths the slip when they came looking for him.

Hitherto hardened criminals only were known to play a cat-and-mouse game with the law enforcement agencies. Now, a leading politician who not long ago was India’s Home Minister is running scared from the law.

For umpteen number of times he was granted anticipatory bail in last one year in cases of corruption and money laundering pertaining to the Aircel-Maxis and the INX Media deals.

Investigators insisted he gave evasive replies when questioned and was required to be interrogated in custody. You can dispute the latter claim but it is not for the accused to determine whether the actions of the investigating agencies are fair and just or motivated by vendetta.

It is standard for all politicians wanted for wrong-doing while the were in power to cry revenge and vendetta when they come under the scanner. The charges against Chidambaram are serious.

As Finance Minister he gave clearance to INX Media to receive Rs 305 crores in foreign funds which he was not empowered to do. The charge is that he did so after Peter Mukherjee and his then wife Indrani had paid hefty bribes to his son, Karti, who too is an accused in the case.

Karti’s investments in foreign assets such as a tennis club in Spain and multiple properties in the UK have been traced by the investigators. Similarly, in the Aircel-Maxis case, Chidambaram exceeded his powers to grant sanction to the Malaysian party to tie up with the cellular operator, Aircel.

On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court Judge Sunil Gaur minced no words to describe the enormity of the charges. Saying that Chidambaram appeared to be the “kingpin, the key conspirators” in the case of money-laundering, he denied him relief against arrest.

‘For one year he had remained under the protective cover of the courts, but did not cooperate with the agencies. Such a sensitive case cannot be allowed to end up in smoke… Simply because he is an MP does not justify grant of pre-arrest bail…’

The strong remarks of Justice Gaur left Chidambaram with only one option, that is, to seek protection from the apex court. His lawyers rushed to the Supreme Court but did not get relief, listing his application for the next day.

Immediately, CBI sleuths appeared at Chidambaram’s house but he had gone underground, in itself a shameful act by a leading politician who ought to have the courage to uphold the law rather than evade it by hiding like a common thief.

On Wednesday too, the SC did not give Chidambaram any relief, with a senior judge listing the matter before the CJI who heard it during the lunch break between day-to-day hearings on the Ram temple case. CJI Ranjan Gogoi will now decide the bench on Friday for taking up Chidambaram’s application.

Meanwhile, it is ironical that Chidambaram used to taunt the Government how Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi managed to evade the authorities and flee abroad. Now it is the government’s turn to ask how he manages to send the CBI and the ED on a wild goose chase, though the look-out notice issued on Wednesday makes his escape abroad difficult. Meanwhile, the reaction of the Opposition parties to the Chidambaram thriller playing out in full public view is on expected lines.

The DMK is doubly angry because the then Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran was a key player in granting sanction to the Malaysian group to take control of Aircel after the former had put in a huge chunk of money in the Maran family-run Sun group.

As for the Congress Party, its condemnation too is understandable since several of its top leaders, including the Gandhis and son-in-law Robert Vadra, are themselves embroiled in corruption cases. Admittedly, at one level it does look as if the Government is targeting Congress leaders for misuse of power when it was in power.

But when corruption had become so rampant in the UPA regime someone has to clean the Augean stables in order to send out a stern warning that no-one howsoever high he or she might be is above the law. The trouble is that seemingly tenable charges of corruption invariably fall in courts.

Just as the bribe-takers in the 2-G scam roam scot free while some of the bribe-givers cool their heels in prison. This is what is a real case of miscarriage of justice. Not the denial of bail to His Arrogant Highness, P. Chidambaram, who has always preened himself as if he was above all scrutiny.

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