NEW DELHI: In a setback to Karti Chidambaram, son of former Union Minister P Chidambaram, the Supreme Court on Monday directed him to appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in INX Media’s FIPB clearance case. The court also stayed a Madras High Court order that had stayed a CBI lookout notice against Karti.
“You must appear before the CBI. How will any investigation in this country succeed if people don’t join the investigation?” the two-judge bench that includes Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar said. “Even you (Karti) know they (CBI) aren’t going to arrest you. If they had to arrest you, they would have done it long back,” the bench said.
“You don’t even apprehend before us that they will arrest you. So what’s your problem in joining the investigation and appearing before the investigating officer?” the bench asked Karti’s counsel and senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam. “We are not on whether he is guilty or not. We are on a small issue. Has he so far participated in the probe? Answer is No.”
The court further asked why Karti has not sought anticipatory bail but sought quashing of the FIR filed three months ago, and said, “So you know nobody is going to arrest you.” Subramaniam wanted to prevent the stay from the court and was prepared to give an undertaking that he won’t go abroad till the next hearing on Friday.
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to accept the undertaking of Karti Chidambaram, son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, that he won’t go abroad till the next hearing on Friday in INX Media’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance case.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) J S Khehar said, “If we accept your statement and you still fly abroad, what will you breach? We have many bad experiences when many respectable people did not come back after they got favourable orders from us.”
The bench mentioned the case of Aircel-Maxis wherein Malaysian businessman T Ananda Krishnan did not come to India despite several court notices and said, “We have had very bad experiences of allowing people to go abroad, and they never come back.”
The apex court made it clear that Karti can’t travel abroad until and unless he joins the probe by the CBI. Karti had booked tickets to travel abroad on August 16. The court will now hear the case on Friday.
During the hearing, the court pointed out that the FIR against Karti was registered on May 15 and notice was issued on June 15 to appear before the CBI on June 29. The LOC was issued on June 16 itself.
Subramaniam told the bench, “Karti had requested the CBI for a date and second notice was issued on July 4 and his presence was required on July 21.”
“We came to know about the LOC only after a month it was issued,” Subramaniam added stating another accused Ravi Viswanathan had first come to know of the LOC when he was stopped at the airport while travelling abroad.
“When I came to know about it, I knew I would also be stopped. That is why I filed the petition in Madras High Court,” Subramaniam said.
But Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for CBI, clarified that LOC was issued only as a measure to ensure that he did not leave the country when the investigation into the case, which has serious offences, was on.
Mehta submitted that apart from Karti, CBN Reddy, Ravi Viswanathan, Mohanan Rajesh and S Bhaskararaman are the other accused who had moved Madras HC against the LOC.
“Why should I abscond? My wife and daughter are here,” Subramaniam told the bench.
“But you must first go to the Investigating Officer and prove your bonafides, When will you go?” asked Justice Khehar.
“And what is wrong with an LOC issued on the next day? CBI is conducing investigation and they do not want to take the chances of a man becoming a fugitive. They just do not want you to travel out of the country,” the bench told Subramaniam.
The CBI in the morning mentioned the plea before the court and challenged the Madras High Court order, which had stayed the LOC. It stated that the high court had no jurisdiction to entertain Karti’s petition as the FIR was registered in Delhi and that search warrants were issued in Delhi.