Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, his son Karti and senior government officials have been charged in the INX Media corruption case for causing huge losses to the taxpayer in return of kickbacks, the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI told the Supreme Court on Friday.
Opposing Mr Chidambaram's request for bail, the CBI told the court that the 74-year-old Congress leader poses a flight risk and could also influence a witness. The chargesheet was filed before a special court, the agency said.
"The witness has given a statement that he is being influenced. We don't wish to disclose his identity and his name has been given submitted to the CBI court in a sealed cover," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, said.
Saying that the country needs to have a "zero tolerance policy" on corruption, Mr Mehta told the court that charges in the case against Mr Chidambaram include forgery.
Countering the CBI, Mr Chidambaram's lawyer and party colleague Kapil Sibal said, "P Chidambaram's passport is impounded, there is a lookout notice against him and he has never applied for travel. So where is the question of flight risk? How can he run away? He is recognised all over the world."
Mr Chidambaram has lost weight while in custody - more than 4 kg - and given the onset of winter and fear of dengue, there is no justification to keep him in jail, Mr Sibal said. "It is only to humiliate him. If the witness is influenced, it is the duty of the government to protect the witness... he hasn't influenced anyone," the Congress leader added.
After hearing both the sides, the Supreme Court reserved its order on Mr Chidambaram's bail plea.
P Chidambaram, who served twice as finance minister and also as a home minister in the previous Congress-led governments, was arrested in a dramatic late-night swoop on August 21 by officers from the CBI.
After being questioned at the agency's headquarters for 14 days, he was transferred to the capital's Tihar jail under judicial custody on September 5.
On Wednesday, he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate which is investigating a separate money laundering case. He was moved to agency's custody yesterday out of Tihar.
Mr Chidambaram is facing claims he received bribes in exchange for foreign investment clearances to a media company INX Media. The company's co-founders Peter and Indrani Mukerjea are currently in jail in the case involving the murder of Indrani's daughter Sheena Bora. Indrani Mukerjea has turned approver in the case against the Chidambarams and the investigative agencies have based their case on her testimony.
Mr Chidambaram's son Karti and several government officials are also being investigated over their role in the scandals. The Chidambarams have denied any wrongdoing and said the charges are politically motivated.