Former Union minister P Chidambaram is "dis-entitled" from anticipatory bail in the INX Media case in view of the "magnitude and enormity "of the material produced by the investigating agencies, the Delhi High Court said on Tuesday. The court, which granted him interim relief last year, cited multiple reasons for the step -- the other key cause being his failure to cooperate with the investigation since.
The verdict on Tuesday leaves the former Union minister open to arrest, unless he gets relief from the Supreme Court. Mr Chidambaram has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is being targeted by the BJP-led Central government for political reasons.
The court, however, brushed it off. "It is preposterous to say the prosecution of Chidambaram is baseless, politically motivated and act of vendetta. It is a classic case of money laundering," said Justice Sunil Gaur.
Investigating agencies claim that during his tenure as the finance minister in 2007, Mr Chidambaram had ensured that the television company -- then owned by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea -- got government clearance to receive foreign funds to the tune of Rs. 305 crore. The agencies claim that Mr Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram had accepted bribes for it.
The judge took a hard line, pointing out that it was an economic offence. "This is an economic offence and has to be dealt with iron hands... The hands of investigating agencies cannot be tied up in such a massive economic offence," he said.
"Facts of the case prima facie reveal that the petitioner is the kingpin, that is, the key conspirator in this case," the judge said. "It cannot be forgotten that the petitioner was the Finance Minister at the relevant time and he had given FDI clearances to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 Crore. Simply because he is a MP would not justify grant of pre-arrest bail to him.
Mr Chidambaram's legal team is approaching the Supreme Court tomorrow to appeal against the High Court's order.
Karti Chidambaram was arrested in the case last year and remained in custody for 23 days.
The Chidambarams were named in the case by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea. The two are currently in jail, accused of being involved in the murder of Indrani Mukerjea's daughter Sheena Bora.