NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Friday sought response of former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti on the Enforcement Directorate's plea challenging the anticipatory bail granted to them in the Aircel-Maxis case.
Justice Suresh Kait issued notice to Chidambaram and Karti on the agency's petition seeking cancellation of their anticipatory bail.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on November 29 along with CBI and ED's pleas challenging the trial court's order discharging former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and others in the same case.
Before Chidambaram and his son were made accused in the Aircel Maxis case, a special court had on February 2, 2017 discharged DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and others in the matter.
Later, both the agencies, ED and CBI, filed supplementary charge sheets naming the Chidambarams in the scam. The 74-year old Congress leader is lodged in Tihar Jail after being arrested by the CBI in the INX Media corruption case.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the ED, said the special judge pronounced its order granting anticipatory bail to the Chidambarams on September 5 without considering the Supreme Court's order which had come on the same day in the INX Media case.
The probe agency said the trial court failed to appreciate that custodial interrogation of the accused was required and its finding the offence not grave enough was completely perverse and untenable in law. There was no counsel present in the court to represent the Chidambarams in the case.
The trial court had also granted anticipatory bail to the father-son duo in the Aircel Maxis case filed by CBI.
The ED has contended that the pre-arrest bail in a case of economic offence was unwarranted and urged the high court to set aside the trial court's order granting relief to Chidambarams and cancel their anticipatory bail.
It has claimed that the two remained evasive during the investigation and there is a likelihood that they could tamper with the evidence and influence witnesses. It has said the position of Chidambaram and his son that they are members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha cannot be a legally tenable ground to grant them anticipatory bail.
The cases relate to alleged irregularities in grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval in the Rs 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal when Chidambaram was finance minister. The CBI is probing how Chidambaram, being the finance minister in 2006, granted FIPB approval to a foreign firm, when only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was empowered to do it.
The ED is probing a money laundering case in the Aircel-Maxis matter, in which the Chidambarams have been questioned by the agency. While granting anticipatory bail to the Chidambarams, the trial court had said the charges against them were not of grave magnitude as the alleged money laundered is a "paltry amount" of Rs 1.13 crore compared to the money purportedly received by accused already discharged in the cases.
It had, however, directed the Chidambarams to join the probe in the cases lodged by the two agencies and said that in the event of arrest, they be released on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and one surety of like amount.
In the INX Media case, the CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance granted to the media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as the finance minister.
Thereafter, the ED lodged a money laundering case in this regard in 2017. Chidambaram has approached the Supreme Court seeking bail in the INX Media case lodged by CBI after the Delhi High Court on September 30, denied him the relief. He had not filed the bail plea before the trial court.