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Sunday 26 January 2020

INX Media: CBI implicates Chidambaram, Mukerjea, 12 others

The CBI charge sheet names P Chidambaram, Peter Mukerjea, Karti Chidambaram, Bhaskar, Sindhushree Khullar, Anoop Pujari, Prabodh Saxena, R Prasad, INX Media, ASCL, Chess Management and four former officers of the finance ministry

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed its charge sheet in the INX Media case. The agency has accused 14 people, including former Home and Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in the charge sheet. The hearing of the case will be held on 21 October in a Delhi court.

The CBI charge sheet names P Chidambaram, Peter Mukerjea, Karti Chidambaram, Bhaskar, Sindhushree Khullar, Anoop Pujari, Prabodh Saxena, R Prasad, INX Media, ASCL and Chess Management. Four former officers of the finance ministry are named in the charge sheet, too.

The Supreme Court, in the meantime, has reserved its order on the bail application of Chidambaram in the case filed by the CBI. Earlier, while hearing Chidambaram’s bail plea in the apex court, former finance minister’s counsel Kapil Sibal had said that INX Media alone was not a case that was under investigation but also the approval of all the FIPBs when P Chidambaram was the finance minister.

Investigation is still going on, Sibal argued, implying that the CBI was prematurely implicating his client.

INX Media case: CBI says Chidambaram might flee

The CBI said in the Supreme Court that Chidambaram should not be granted bail until the statements of key witnesses were recorded in the court. The CBI said that the investigation was passing through a difficult phase at the moment.

An economic criminal can flee the country, the CBI argued, citing the examples of several accused in financial scandals fleeing the country.

The CBI, of course, clarified that it was not comparing cases like those against Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi with the accused in the INX Media case, but it said, “We are talking about principles.”

Sibal argues INX Media not the only case

Responding to the argument of Kapil Sibal, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, arguing on behalf of the CBI, said that his side had filed an appeal against the decision of the lower court, too. This upset Sibal who said, “Sometimes you threaten and sometimes you interrupt. This is no way of arguing your case.”

Sibal cited a decision of the Supreme Court where it had said that granting bail was a rule and “my client has a right to bail”. The advocate complained that Mehta was arguing that there was a risk of Chidambaram fleeing the country, but “please tell the court where will I (speaking on behalf of Chidambaram) flee to? The whole world knows me.”

“Last time we were denied bail on suspicion. The investigating agency should give protection to all the witnesses if they feel it,” Sibal submitted.

Many charges against the accused

The solicitor-general said in the court that the witnesses who had given statements against P Chidambaram did not comprise just Indrani Mukherjee. “Rather, there is another witness who has given a statement against him,” Mehta said.

Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court has extended Chidambaram’s custody. He will remain in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) till 24 October. He will now be presented in court on 24 October.

Chidambaram has been in judicial custody ever since he was arrested on 21 August (before which he had been absconding for a few days) for the alleged irregularities in the sanctioning of INX Media by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) during his tenure as finance minister.

The former finance minister and other accused in the INX Media case have been booked under Sections 120B, 420, 468 and 471 of the IPC, as well as sections 9, 13 (2) and 13 (1), under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

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