Another setback for Chidambaram as SC refuses urgent listing of his petition against arrest
The Congress leader has submitted in his petition in the SC that the HC observation that he was the "kingpin" in the INX case was completely baseless and that the FIR was "politically motivated".
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday refused urgent listing of Congress leader P Chidambaram's petition seeking protection from arrest in the INX Media scam cases.
The top court said the defects in the petition were removed just now and it "cannot be listed for hearing today itself".
"Without listing of the petition, we cannot hear the matter," said a bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, M Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi.
"Sorry Mr Sibal. We cannot hear the matter," the bench said when senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, repeatedly asked for hearing the matter on Wednesday itself.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the plea of Chidambaram for hearing the matter on oral mentioning saying that the papers are not with him.
Just as the bench assembled in the post-lunch session, Sibal said he was once again mentioning the matter for listing as he had not heard anything from the Registry about its listing.
Sibal told the top court that the investigative agencies have now issued a lookout notice against Chidambaram as if he is going to "run away".
The bench told him that there were some defects in the petition and the Registry has informed about it.
When Sibal said the defects have been cured, the bench called Registrar (judicial) Surya Pratap Singh and enquired about the defects.
The Registrar said the defects have been cured "just now", and the petition will be placed before the CJI for allocating it before an appropriate bench.
At this, Sibal said that the matter cannot be listed today as the CJI is sitting in the Constitution bench and he will not rise before 4 pm.
While the senior advocate was repeatedly insisting the matter be heard, the bench told him, "we have already directed the matter to be placed before CJI".
"Generally, the matters for listing are placed before CJI in the evening but in the morning we immediately refer it to CJI," the bench said.
"It is not out job but the Registry has to take the step," the bench further said.
When Sibal reminded the bench that in the past on the basis of oral mentioning protection from arrest has been granted to people, the bench said, "we directed the Registry and it found that there were defects in the petition".
At the end of the hearing, Sibal said that Chidambaram was ready to give an undertaking that he will not run away but the bench did not consider the submission and concluded the brief hearing.
The former union minister on Wednesday filed an appeal in the Supreme Cout challenging the Delhi High Court order dismissing his petition for pre-arrest bail in the INX Media case.
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"The Judge's observation that the petitioner is the kingpin i.e. the key conspirator, in this case, is completely baseless and supported by no material whatsoever. The judge has ignored the crucial fact that the petitioner simply approved the unanimous recommendation of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) which was chaired by Secretary, Economic Affairs and consisted of five other Secretaries to the Government of India," he said in the petition.
Chidambaram said observations of the high court that the magnitude of the case justifies denial of bail is manifestly "illegal and unjust".
Approval was granted for an original investment and the downstream investment.
"Both investment proposals were examined and processed in the normal course and placed before the FIPB. It was FIPB which recommended the grant of approval and the Petitioner simply approved the recommendation. None of the FIPB members have been attempted to be arrested," he said.
Contending that his antecedents are "impeccable", Chidambaram said he is a sitting Member of the Rajya Sabha and has never been accused of any offence.
"There is no possibility of his fleeing from justice. Further, it is the case of the petitioner that despite having cooperated fully with the investigation the object of seeking his arrest is only to humiliate him and injure his reputation," the plea submitted.
He said that INX Media sought approval for Foreign Direct Investment in a proposed TV channel up to 46.216 per cent of the issued equity capital.
"The policy allowed investment up to 74 per cent of the equity. FIPB unit examined the proposal, found it to be in order and submitted the case to the FIPB. FIPB consisted of six secretaries to the Government of India and was chaired by the Secretary, Economic Affairs. FIPB unanimously recommended the proposal and placed it before the Finance Minister for his approval, along with several other proposals. High Court failed to appreciate that in May 2007, the Finance Minister (petitioner) granted the approval in the normal course of official business," the petition said.
He said that the High Court failed to appreciate that ten years later, based on alleged 'oral source information', the CBI registered an FIR on May 15, 2017 against four companies, Karti Chidambaram (petitioner), "unknown officers/officials of the Ministry of Finance" and other unknown persons.
"The petitioner was not named as an accused or suspect, there is not even any allegation against the Petitioner in the body of the said FIR.
The allegation in the FIR was that INX Media had made a down-stream investment without obtaining the prior approval of the FIPB and, in order to regularise that investment, had approached the petitioner's son and made a payment of Rs 10 lakh (by cheque) to another company allegedly associated with the petitioner's son.
The petitioner has learnt that it is the case of the said company that it received the payment towards consultancy work and further, the petitioner's son was never a shareholder or Director of the said company at any point of time," Chidambaram said.
He said the High Court failed to appreciate that on January 21, the CBI is learned to have sought sanction to prosecute him and it can therefore be inferred that the CBI has concluded its investigation, prepared the draft charge sheet, and is ready to file the same in the trial court, subject to sanction being granted.
"High Court failed to appreciate that while seeking sanction for prosecution, it is necessary to submit a draft charge-sheet to the sanctioning authority.
Once the investigation has been completed without arrest of the petitioner, there is no ground for CBI to oppose bail or seek custody," the plea said.
Chidambaram said he has always cooperated in the investigation, appeared for questioning on June 6, 2018, and was ready to appear for further questioning.
"Hence, there was no ground for denying bail at this stage," he said adding that the high court failed to appreciate that there is no prima facie case against him.
Chidambaram said the High Court has failed to appreciate that there was no allegation that he has tampered with the evidence or the witnesses.
The Congress leader said that there is no material which points to the petitioner or to his involvement in any of the transactions.
Chidamabaram said the observation of the high court Judge that the petitioner was evasive during the questioning is "totally baseless and supported by no material whatsoever".
"The petitioner is law abiding citizen and has reputation to sustain in the society. He is a sitting Member of the Rajya Sabha. The antecedents of the petitioner are impeccable. He has never been an accused of any offence. There is no possibility of his fleeing from justice. Personal interrogation at the instance of the CBI can certainly be done by securing petitioner's presence before the concerned authorities on given dates and times, but custodial interrogation is not at all warranted so as to protect petitioner's fundamental right under Article 14, 19 (1) (d) and 21 of Constitution of India," he said.