New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday allowed Congress leader P Chidambaram to place some additional documents on record in his pending anticipatory bail plea in the INX Media case lodged by the CBI. The former finance minister has sought to place on record the printouts of several news articles published on February 3, which state that the Law Ministry has told the Centre that CBI can be granted sanction to prosecute Chidambaram in the case.
Justice Sunil Gaur allowed the application and said the additional documents are taken on record. The court has on January 25, reserved the order on Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail pleas in the corruption and money laundering cases relating to the INX Media scandal, lodged by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED).
In the application filed through advocate Arshdeep Singh and Pramod Dubey, Chidambaram said it was imperative to bring on record these facts to show that the CBI has completed its investigation in the case and has thereafter, sought sanction to prosecute him.
“On February 3, it has been widely reported in the media that the Law Ministry has informed the central government that sanction can be granted to the CBI to prosecute the petitioner (Chidambaram) in the instant case. “It appears that the opinion of the Law Ministry was sought on the request for grant of sanction made by the CBI against the petitioner,” the plea said.
The Congress leader has sought anticipatory bail saying that he was called for questioning by CBI only once in June 2018 and he was not even named as an accused in the FIR. CBI and ED have opposed the anticipatory bail plea and asserted that his custodial interrogation was required in the case as he was evasive in giving answers during questioning and they required his custodial interrogation which will be qualitatively different.
The two probe agencies contended that Chidambaram, during whose tenure as finance minister the FIPB clearance was granted to a media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007, gave wrong answers and did not disclose the material which ought to be in his knowledge.
A senior government functionary has said the law ministry’s opinion was sought on whether the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) demand to prosecute Chidambaram was legally sound. The law ministry has now told the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that there was “no legal infirmity” in the CBI request seeking prosecution sanction.
The ministry gave its opinion based on evidence provided by the premier investigating agency, the official has said. CBI has been already granted approval by the Centre to prosecute Chidambaram in Aircel-Maxis case. The high court had on July 25, 2018 granted interim protection from arrest to Chidambaram from arrest in both the cases and it was extended from time to time.
The senior Congress leader’s role had come under the scanner of various investigating agencies in the Rs 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case involving Rs 305 crore.
It was during his tenure as finance minister in the UPA-I government that clearances from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) were given to the two ventures. In the INX Media case, the CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance. Thereafter, the ED had last year lodged the money laundering case in this regard.
A trial court here had also on May 30, 2018, directed the ED not to take coercive action against Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case. He was also granted protection from arrest in the Aircel-Maxis case in which he and his son Karti are named in the charge sheet filed by the CBI. The interim protection has been extended from time to time. Chidambaram’s petition had said that though no summons had ever been served on him by the ED in this case, he had an apprehension of arrest in view of the summons issued to him by the CBI, which was investigating the scheduled offence.