NEW DELHI: All efforts by senior Congress leader and ex-Union minister Palaniappan Chidambaram to avoid jail came to naught on Thursday as the Supreme Court refused protection and a special CBI court sent him to Tihar till September 19 in connection with the INX Media money laundering case.
Chidambaram even offered to surrender before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to stay off Tihar but the agency saw through it and decided not to seek his custody, despite arguing for it in the SC earlier.
Refusing to grant relief to Chidambaram in the INX case, the SC said economic offences stand as a different class as they affect the “economic fabric of the society”.
“Grant of anticipatory bail, particularly in economic offences would hamper the effective investigation... We are of the view that it is not a fit case to grant anticipatory bail,” said the bench of justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna.
The SC bench said Chidambaram can approach the appropriate court in accordance with law and when the application for regular bail is filed, it should be considered by the trial court on its own merits without being influenced by the observations of the SC or high court. The Delhi HC had held he was “prima facie the kingpin” in the INX scam.
CBI special judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar, who sent Chidambaram to 14 days judicial custody, said the allegations against him were serious. “CBI has apprehension that because of his status and his position, the investigation may be hampered by the accused. It’s not a case where the accused can be ‘released’ at the stage,” he said.
Considering that Chidambaram has Z-level security, the court directed he be kept in a separate cell. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the court there will be adequate security in the jail.
The former finance minister has been lodged in jail number 7, where his son Karti Chidambaram had earlier spent time.
During the proceedings, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the judge about the outcome of the Supreme Court’s order in the ED case and also about the withdrawal of his petitions in the CBI case.
The CBI told the court that Chidambaram can be sent to judicial custody as he was a powerful public person and should not be set free.
Sibal opposed the CBI saying there was no allegation of his client trying to influence or hamper the probe.
The CBI’s FIR lodged on May 15, 2017 alleges irregularities in clearance given to INX Media to receive foreign funds of `305 crore during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister. The ED then lodged a money laundering case in 2017.
Western toilet, spectacles allowed
The special CBI court allowed Chidambaram’s request for Western toilet facility, permission to carry his regular medicines and spectacles. He will be lodged in a separate cell and provided adequate security
Anticipatory bail in Aircel Maxis cases
Another special court granted anticipatory bail to Chidambaram and his son Karti in the Aircel Maxis cases filed by the CBI and ED, saying the charges were not grave as the alleged sum is a “paltry amount” of Rs 1.13 crore