New Delhi: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram Monday failed to get any relief from the Delhi High Court which dismissed his bail plea in the INX Media corruption case, saying the investigation was at an advance stage and his influencing the witnesses cannot be ruled out.
The high court rejected his bail petition with hard-hitting remarks that it cannot be disputed that if the case is proved against Chidambaram, the offence is on the society, economy, financial stability and integrity of the country.
Chidambaram is not a "flight risk" and there is no chance of tampering with evidence, he can influence the witnesses if granted bail, it said.
"The economic offences constitute a class apart and a class by itself, as it cuts the very root of probity and purity of public administration and results in eroding the public confidence which it reposes on the Government elected by it," Justice Suresh Kait said while dismissing the bail petition.
Chidambaram, 74, is in custody since his arrest by the CBI on August 21.
The court said it cannot be disputed that Chidambaram has been a strong finance minister and home minister and is a Rajya Sabha MP at present.
"He is a respectable member of the Bar Association of Supreme Court. He has long standing in bar as a senior advocate. He has deep roots in the Indian society and may be some connection in abroad.
"But, the fact that he will not influence the witnesses directly or indirectly, cannot be ruled out in view of above facts. Moreover, the investigation is at advance stage, therefore, this court is not inclined to grant bail," it said.
Regarding the flight risk, the judge said it can be secured by putting conditions including surrender of passport, issuance of look out notice and the accused not being allowed to leave the country without the permission of the court (even via Nepal and Bhutan).
"There is no evidence on record that Chidambaram tried to flee from India," the court said, adding that the situation of flight risk is possible only if no look out notice is issued or an accused is not of so popular and can leave country based upon forged passport in the name of other persons.
The judge agreed with the contentions of senior advocate A M Singhvi, representing Chidambaram, and did not agree with the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on the issue of flight risk.
On the point of evidence tampering, the court said the documents relating to the case are in the custody of the CBI, the government and the court.
"The petitioner is not in power except he is a Member of Parliament. Therefore, in my considered view, there is no chance of Chidambaram tampering with the evidence...," the judge said.
Chidambaram, who was a finance minister as well as home minister in the UPA government from 2004-14, was arrested from his Jor Bagh residence here and is in Tihar Jail under judicial custody till October 3.
The high court said the trial court's order remanding Chidambaram to judicial custody was "justified".
Following his arrest, Chidambaram did not approach the trial court and had directly filed the regular bail plea in the high court.
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 Chidambaram's tenure as the finance minister.
Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017.
The high court, in its bail order, said that from the material it seemed that FIPB Unit prepared a proposal for FDI of Rs 4.62 crore, about 46.21 per cent of the equity and the same was passed granting approval to INX Media.
However, instead of Rs 4.62 crore, INX Media brought FDI of Rs 403 crore without any approval for the same, it noted.
The court said as per the documents filed by the CBI in a sealed cover, it was revealed during the investigation that INX Media's former promoters Indrani and Peter Mukherjea had met Chidambaram even prior to the filing of application before FIPB Unit.
He had "assured them regarding the FIPB approval and in lieu thereof, directed that the 'business interest' of his son Karti Chidambaram, who is also an accused, should be taken care of and certain overseas transactions should made in his favour," the court noted as said in the CBI's report.
The court said it was on record that illegal gratification has been paid by and through other companies by Indrani and Peter to the firms controlled and owned by the "co-conspirator and co-accused Karti".
"It is also on record that no services were rendered by these companies owned and controlled by Chidambaram and Karti to the companies from where the huge sums of money is received," it noted.
The court said investigation has also revealed that contemporaneously large number of e-mails were exchanged between the representatives of INX Media and the company controlled by Chidambaram and his son, pertaining to grant of FIPB approval to the company.
It cited a verdict of the Supreme Court that the entire community is aggrieved if the economic offenders who ruin the economy of the State are not brought to book as such offences affects the very fabric of democratic governance and probity in public life.