The Delhi High Court today directed former finance minister P Chidambaram, arrested in the INX Media corruption case, to file an affidavit disclosing the source of certain government documents, relating to FIPB approval granted to the company, which were being referred to by his lawyers during the hearing of his bail plea.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait gave the direction noting the objection raised by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, that the lawyers for 74-year-old Mr Chidambaram must disclose the source from where they got these government documents.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Mr Chidambaram, agreed to it saying if the court wants they will put it on an affidavit.
The court, which heard the bail petition for nearly two hours, asked the counsel for the Congress leader to give an advance copy of the affidavit to the CBI and listed the matter for further hearing on Wednesday.
Mr Chidambaram's bail plea has been opposed by the CBI, which in its written response, said it is a "gravest case of economic offences" and the magnitude of financial embezzlement and misuse of high public office disentitles him for any relief.
During the hearing, Mr Sibal said it was a collective decision of six secretaries of the central government and other officers to grant FIPB approval to INX Media and Mr Chidambaram being the then finance minister had only signed it.
"Everybody has done the right thing, but the (then) finance minister is in jail and others are out. There is not an iota of evidence against him. There is no question of proceeds of crime and nothing to show that I have committed any offence," he argued.
He contended that it was a not a case of taking out money from the country or cheating a bank and instead money has come in and it was not an economic offence, as alleged by the agency.
At the outset, Mr Sibal requested the judge that the air conditioner cooling be increased in the jampacked courtroom, where Mr Chidambaram's son Karti could be seen standing at the door as he could not make way to enter.
Besides Mr Sibal, a battery of senior lawyers, including Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Dayan Krishnan and AS Chandhiok, appeared for Mr Chidambaram.
Mr Chidambaram, who was arrested on August 21 by the CBI, did not approach the trial court and had directly filed the regular bail plea in the high court.
Mr Singhvi submitted that the court should consider the interest of both Mr Chidambaram and the CBI and he should be granted bail, while ensuring that he does not run away and cooperated in the investigation.
He said Mr Chidambaram has deep roots in the society and he has never made any application to travel abroad and denied the agency's claim that he was a flight risk.
Referring to the deposition of co-accused and former promoter of INX Media Pvt Ltd Indrani Mukherjea, Mr Singhvi contended that Mr Chidambaram was "painted black" on the testimony of a murder accused who is facing prosecution for allegedly killing her daughter whom she showed to be her sister for 10 years.
"She is in jail in the murder case, she is making all kinds of statements to get out of jail. Her husband (Peter) has denied everything which she said in her statement. Her statement comes 10 years after the alleged offence and when she has spent an year in jail. Are you saying that today I should remain in jail because of a person like her," he argued.
To this, the judge said "when you are disputing her statements, what is the value of the testimony given by her husband" as they are having strained relations.
In July this year, Indrani turned approver in the case against Mr Chidambaram and his son and recorded her confessional statement in which she said that she and her husband had met P Chidambaram at his office in Delhi's North Block.
She alleged that the former Union minister had asked her to help his son in his business and make overseas remittances in lieu of granting Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval to INX Media.
Seeking bail, Mr Chidambaram said there was no allegation against him about trying to influence anyone related to the matter since 2007.
In his rejoinder to the CBI's reply on the bail plea, Mr Chidambaram denied that he used the influential office of the finance minister for personal gains in connivance with his co-conspirators.
He said that a look out circular has already been issued against him and it is preposterous to allege that he is a flight risk and can evade the process of law.
He said the Rs 305 crore which came to INX media as foreign direct investment were well within the approved percentage of 46.216 per cent.
The CBI in its reply has said the gravity of offences committed by Mr Chidambaram for which he is being investigated does not entitle him to seek any relief as it would not only be against the ''zero tolerance policy on corruption'' but would also be setting a very wrong precedence in all corruption cases.
It said the investigation revealed that Mr Chidambaram, as the finance minister, had demanded illegal gratification and the payments were made in India and overseas to him and his accused son Karti.
Chidambaram, who was arrested by the CBI from his Jor Bagh residence here, is currently lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody till October 3.
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Mr Chidambaram's tenure as the finance minister.
Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.
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