The hearing in the bail plea filed by former Union Minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media case being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is presently underway before a three judge Bench of the Supreme Court.
The hearing is progressing before a Bench of Justices R Banumathi, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy.
Chidambaram had moved the Supreme Court against the order of the Delhi High court denying him bail in the case. On November 20, the Supreme Court had sought the ED’s response on the plea. The matter was expected to come up before the Court yesterday, but was adjourned on the State’s request.
Live Updates from today’s hearing follow:
- Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal making arguments on behalf of Chidambaram. Sibal recounts the facts of the case and submits that Chidambaram had offered to surrender, but the ED rejected the same
- Sibal: Witnesses were available to ED since 2018, but Chidambaram was not interrogated till the SLP was filed.
- Sibal: The idea is to keep me (Chidambaram) in custody for as long as possible. Earlier they (ED) argued that they immediately needed me for questioning, but then they didn’t interrogate me after CBI judicial custody was over. They just wanted me in jail.
- Sibal points out that the findings of the Delhi High Court order are the same as the ED’s counter affidavit. This happened in the first round also, and Your Ladyship (Justice Banumathi) had remarked that it should not happen.
- How does counter affidavit become finding of the Court? What kind of judicial process is this? And my bail was rejected on this ground. It is said that a wrong message will be sent to the public if I am released on bail as though I am some Ranga Billa, Sibal.
- The allegations are yet to be established. If they are taken to be established, what is the point of a charge? May as well convict me. The “gravity” of the matter will never change. So I should be incarcerated all my life? Sibal
- Unlike in CrPC where FIR has to be registered under Section 154 for cognizable offence, there is no such provision under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Under PMLA, there is ECIR, which is an internal document, Sibal.
- Sibal: In this case, an FIR was registered by the CBI and the contents of that FIR became the ECIR
- Bench rises for lunch.
Post Lunch Updates
- Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi begins submissions for P Chidambaram.
- Singhvi: They are applying the test of gravity of offence. With this test, the accused will stay in jail forever. The gravity won’t change.
- Only an extraordinary category of crimes warrants denial of bail. Mere expression of “gravity of offence” cannot substantiate denial of bail, Singhvi.
- Legislature treats offences warranting less than 7 years’ imprisonment as being relatively less grave, Singhvi.
- Singhvi cites a judgment in which it was held that gravity of offence alone cannot be a ground for denial of bail.
- Reading from Himachal Pradesh High Court judgment, Singhvi says, “Punishment begins after conviction…Here, I have been in jail for 100 days.”
- Principle of law is that the High Court and the Supreme Court cannot go into the merits at this stage. What will the trial court do otherwise? Singhvi.
- The Delhi High Court order has gone into the merits of the case and has been dispositive in granting me bail, Singhvi.
- All the allegations are not qua Chidambaram, but about others. Singhvi concludes.
- Enforcement Directorate to make submissions tomorrow.
The INX Media case pertains to the alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to INX Media when P Chidambaram was the Finance Minister of India.
It is the case of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED that P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram received illegal gratification from INX Media owners Peter and Indrani Mukherjea for the clearance.
The CBI had arrested P Chidambaram on August 21 after his anticipatory bail plea in the case was rejected by the Delhi High Court.
Chidambaram, who spent a fortnight in police custody after his arrest, was thereafter remanded to judicial custody. Later, his regular bail was denied by the Delhi High Court as well. He was granted regular bail in the CBI case by the Supreme Court subsequently. The CBI’s review petition before the Supreme Court against the order granting bail to Chidambaram is presently pending.
Meanwhile, Chidambaram was arrested by the ED in connection with the money laundering case on October 16, and was subsequently sent to custody. He was sent to judicial custody on October 30. On November 13, his judicial custody was extended till November 27 (today). On November 15, the Delhi High Court rejected his bail plea, prompting the present appeal before the Supreme Court.