NEW DELHI: The CBI today opposed in the Delhi High Court the bail plea of Karti Chidambaram in the INX Media corruption case, contending that he has already destroyed evidence being an "influential" person.
Karti's counsel, however, argued that no case under the Prevention of Corruption Act was made out against him since the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has neither questioned any public servant, nor made them an accused in the matter.
After hearing arguments of the counsel for CBI and Karti, Justice S P Garg reserved the order on the bail application.
Karti's parents, P Chidambaram and Nalini, both senior advocates, were also present in the court room during the hearing.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, said there was serious apprehension of threatening of witnesses and destroying of evidence if Karti was released on bail.
A battery of senior advocates, including Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Gopal Subramanium and Dayan Krishnan, appearing for Karti's lawyers, submitted that the FIR lodged in the case did not state which public servant or Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) official was influenced.
During the arguments, the ASG said FIPB officials have also been interrogated and all of them are holding high offices in their respective fields.
He said it would not only seriously prejudice the investigation, but also harm the cause of justice, making it difficult for the agency to probe further.
Placing certain material before the court in a sealed cover, the ASG said their details cannot be read out at this stage.
The agency, in its written response to the bail plea, also opposed Karti's move of withdrawing his bail plea from the trial court and moving the high court, saying it amounted to the abuse of legal process and no fault can be found with the trial court judge.
Mehta submitted that CBI investigates so many cases and if such a conduct of an accused is accepted, it will become a precedent and everyone will directly approach the high court and the agency would not be able to discriminate between any two accused.
"The investigation is at a very crucial stage and we have placed documents in sealed cover that Karti has already destroyed a piece of evidence", he claimed, adding that the accused has never cooperated in the probe and even when basic questions are asked, he refuses to answer and it is non-cooperation.
While placing the case diary before the court, the ASG said "court may see whether it is political vendetta as claimed by Karti, or an actual alleged commission of offence where credible material is available on record.
"Not only he has tampered with the evidence, he is influential enough to tamper the evidence if he is released on bail. It's not the stage where the accused should be granted bail."
Karti's lawyers denied the allegation of tampering with the evidence and added that when the CBI has not sought his further custodial interrogation, why should he be kept in judicial custody.
They also said that no one else has been arrested in the case and what the CBI has done is to put Karti behind bars.
CBI has also not spoken about the persons who were to be influenced and, without there being any public servant, how can the case survive, they added.
Sibal argued that the CBI kept on seeking time to file response to Karti's bail plea before the trial court after which they (Karti) moved the high court for the relief.
He said there was no question of Karti going abroad as he has already deposited his passport with the Enforcement Directorate as per the high court's order in the money laundering case, in which he was given protection from arrest.
Karti's lawyers also claimed that CBI was trying to connect him with a private company, Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd, which had received the alleged bribe amount of Rs 10 lakh, when he was in no way related to it.
Karti had moved the high court seeking bail, hours after a court here had sent him to judicial custody till March 24.
A special court had on March 12 remanded Karti in judicial custody in the graft case and dismissed his plea that he be put in a separate cell in Tihar Jail in view of "threat perception".
It had sent him to prison after the CBI, in whose custody he was quizzed for 12 days in a row after his arrest on February 28 in Chennai, said he was no longer required for further custodial interrogation.
Karti was arrested by the CBI on his return from the United Kingdom in connection with an FIR lodged on May 15 last year, alleging irregularities in a FIPB clearance given to INX Media for receiving funds of about Rs 305 crore from overseas in 2007 when his father was the Union finance minister.
The CBI had initially alleged that Karti received Rs 10 lakh as a bribe for facilitating the FIPB clearance to INX Media.
It, however, later revised the figure to USD 1 million (about Rs 6.50 crore at the current exchange rate and Rs 4.5 crore in 2007).
The fresh evidence in the case, which triggered Karti's arrest, was based on a statement of Indrani Mukerjea, former director of INX Media (P) Ltd, who recorded it under Section 164 of the CrPC before a magistrate on February 17.
Indrani is currently lodged in a Mumbai prison in connection with the case of murder of her daughter Sheena Bora.