INX Media: Delhi HC seeks response on Chidambaram’s bail

The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought a response from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by September 23 on former Union minister P Chidambaram’s bail plea in the INX Media case.

Justice Suresh Kait issued the notice after the senior Congress leader moved the high court alleging that the criminal proceedings against him were “borne out of political vendetta”. Chidambaram also alleged that the investigating agency is acting at the behest of the Union government.

The senior Congress leader’s counsel, in a separate petition, had also sought a stay on the trial court’s order on September 5 that remanded him in 14 days’ judicial custody in the case till September 19; it however withdrew the plea.

Besides this, the high court rejected senior advocate Kapil Sibal’s oral request to allow home-cooked food for Chidambaram. Chidambaram’s son Karti was also present in for the hearing.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, said Chidambaram’s family members are already visiting him in jail twice a week and as a state “we cannot distinguish”.

Probing charges of corruption in the case, the CBI had arrested Chidambaram on August 21 night amid high drama. He remained in CBI custody for 15 days and was then sent to Tihar jail until September 19, following which the Special Court issued directions to keep him in a separate cell as he was a protectee under Z-security.

Chidambaram moved the plea directly in the High Court through his advocates Arshdeep Singh and Akshat Gupta, saying he is a “law-abiding citizen having deep roots in the society”, “not a flight risk”, and is “willing to abide by all such conditions as may be imposed” by the court while granting him bail.

The plea claimed that the “petitioner (Chidambaram) has filed the instant bail application directly” before the High Court since the Special Judge has “pre-determined” the issue by declining his prayer for release on September 5 and remanded him in judicial custody despite there being no ground for the same.

Challenging the remand order, the plea said that “…none of the officials of FIPB have been arrested or even sought to be arrested by the CBI in the subject FIR. It is the Petitioner’s case that the instant criminal proceeding is mala fide and is borne out of political vendetta, and that the investigating agency is acting at the behest of the Central Government, which wants to malign the untainted and unimpeachable reputation of the Petitioner’s, who is a senior leader of the Indian National Congress Party and is also the ex-Union Finance Minister”.

“It is settled law that if police custody remand is not extended, then judicial custody remand is not an automatic consequence and it is obligatory for the Ld. Judge to apply his judicial mind and not to pass an order of remand automatically or in a mechanical manner,” the plea said.

It said there is not a single allegation that any loss has been caused to the public exchequer or any wrongful gain made by any private entity due to grant of FIPB approval in case of INX Media. “In fact the said approval has ensured Foreign Direct Investment of 305 crores in the country,” the plea said.

The INX Media case pertains to alleged irregularities in FIPB clearance granted when Chidambaram was Union finance minister.