The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram in connection with the INX Media case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
A three-judge Bench of Justice R Banumathi, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Hrishikesh Roy granted bail to Chidambaram.
Chidambaram is currently in the custody of Enforcement Directorate (ED) till October 24 in the INX Media money laundering case.
Chidambaram is not a “flight risk” and in view of the conditions imposed, there is no possibility of his abscondence from the trial, said the apex court in its judgement.
“Statement of the prosecution that the appellant (Chidambaram) has influenced the witnesses and there is likelihood of his further influencing the witnesses cannot be the ground to deny bail to the appellant particularly, when there is no such whisper in the six remand applications filed by the prosecution,” the Bench noted.
Granting bail to Chidambaram, the top court noted that the charge sheet has been filed against Chidambaram and other co-accused on October 18, 2019, he is in custody from August 21, 2019 for about two months and the co-accused were already granted bail.
“The appellant is said to be aged 74 years and is also said to be suffering from age related health problems. Considering the above factors and the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the view that the appellant is entitled to be granted bail,” top court said while setting aside the order of Delhi High Court which denied bail to Chidambaram.
Chidambaram was ordered to be released on bail if not required in any other case, subject to the condition of his executing bail bonds for a sum of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties of like sum to the satisfaction of the Special Judge (PC Act).
“The passport if already not deposited, shall be deposited with the Special Court and the appellant shall not leave the country without leave of the Special Court and subject to the order that may be passed by the Special Judge from time to time. The appellant shall make himself available for interrogation as and when required,” the verdict of Supreme Court said.
“Since the High Court, in the impugned judgment, has expressed its views on the merits of the matter, the findings of the High Court in the impugned judgment shall not have any bearing either in the trial or in any other proceedings. It is made clear that the findings in this judgment be construed as expression of opinion only for the limited purpose of considering the regular bail in CBI case and shall not have any bearing in any other proceedings,” the apex court added.
Chidambaram, who is currently in judicial custody in Tihar jail, had filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the apex court days after the High Court dismissed his bail plea contending that he might influence the witnesses in the case.
This judgement of the top court will not have any bearing on the other case.
The case pertains to an FIR registered by the CBI for alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to INX Media to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 by Chidambaram when he was the Finance Minister. ED is investigating the alleged offense of money laundering that arose out of the FIR.
While the CBI arrested him in August, he was booked by the ED last week.