The arrest of P Chidambaram, former Finance Minister who also served as Home minister in the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government, and his incarceration in Delhi’s Tihar jail, is unprecedented for a person who occupied such high office in the Indian government. After several adjournments and successful anticipatory bail pleas, the law has caught up with the high-profile undertrial whose submission for grant of special status in jail has also been turned down by the apex court. Chidambaram has been remanded in judicial custody in the INX media case for two weeks on the testimony of Indrani Mukerjea, co-accused with her husband, former media baron Peter Mukerjea, when she deposed before the court that Chidambaram’s son Karti had offered her a bribe of $1 million when they met at Hyatt hotel in Delhi after the then Union finance minister had asked them to help Karti in his business. The CBI’s plea for arrest of P Chidambaram in the case was based on its apprehension that because of his status and position the investigation may be hampered by the accused. Indrani was subsequently allowed to become approver in the case.
Ironically, Chidambaram’s arrest came on a day when in another case--the Aircel-Maxis case--P Chidambaram and Karti were granted bail by Special judge O.P. Saini on grounds that the allegations of bribes/money laundering against them were “not of a grave magnitude” because the amount was paltry. Judge Saini came down hard on the probe agencies for the “unexplained delays in investigation”. It was in the course of investigations in the cases against the Chidambarams that the CBI was believed to have unearthed evidence which linked Karti to the ownership of at least 25 properties in various locations abroad, besides the operation of bank accounts which showed huge amounts.
While it is the pursuit of the cases against the Chidambarams which will establish the veracity of reports and allegations of huge wealth amassed by them, they are well and truly in trouble, confronted as they are with what seems like a mound of evidence that could nail them. So far P Chidambaram has put up a brave face and has withstood intense questioning with stoicism. As the case proceeds, much dirty linen would be washed in public and many more allegations would come up. The erstwhile Congress regime is in the grip of several cases of corruption and Chidambaram’s alleged involvement has only worsened the taint. The future will unravel whether the Congress will sink further into morass or that it will at least partially succeed in wiping off the troublesome taint.