NEW DELHI: The CBI Friday opposed in the Delhi High Court the bail plea of Congress leader P Chidambaram in the INX Media corruption case, saying it was "gravest case of economic offences" and the magnitude of financial embezzlement and misuse of high public office disentitles him for any relief.
In its written response to Chidambaram's bail plea, the CBI said the gravity of offences committed by the former finance minister for which he is being investigated does not entitle him to seek any relief as it would not only be against the 'zero tolerance policy on corruption' but would also be setting a very wrong precedence in all corruption cases.
It said this was a clear case of betrayal of public trust at large and granting the relief to 73-year-old Chidambaram will set a wrong precedent in corruption matters as it was allegedly a clear case of betrayal of public trust.
Chidambaram, who was arrested on August 21 by the CBI from his Jor Bagh residence here, is currently lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody till October 3.
His bail plea, in which he has claimed that the criminal proceedings against him were "mala fide" and borne out of "political vendetta", is listed for further hearing before Justice Suresh Kait on September 23.
The agency said there is overwhelming evidence against the Congress leader and a strong case is made out against him by the agency.
"The facts of the case, the gravity of the offence, the magnitude of financial embezzlement, the brazenness and the impunity with which the high public office was misused by the accused/petitioner while commissioning the present offence further disentitles him to seek grant of relief from this court," the CBI said in its reply.
Chidambaram poses a serious flight risk and there was a possibility of him evading the process of law, the CBI said, adding that everyone who evaded law in the past also had strong roots in India.
"The investigating agency has in past experienced, in similar cases related to economic offence of this magnitude, that the accused therein, who also held high public office, as well as, owing huge business empires, have evaded the process of law by fleeing from the country," it said.
"The said cases are a matter of public knowledge and therefore, merely on the basis of an assertion/ assurance made by the accused that there is no flight risk in his case, bail may not be granted," it added.
The agency also stated that the gravity of offence has to be seen in view of the impunity with which a high public office has been abused for personal gains.
In this case, Chidambaram who had held a very high and influential office of Finance minister of the country, used the same for personal gains, personally, as well as in connivance with his co-conspirators and this fact makes the case grave enough to deny him bail, the agency contended.
"It is clear that the present case constitutes as one of the gravest case of economic offences committed at the point in time," it said.
The investigation has revealed that Chidambaram, as the finance minister, had demanded illegal gratification and the payments were made in India and overseas to him and his accused son Karti, it said.
CBI further stated that payments were made by co-accused Indrani and Peter Mukherjea from various bank accounts maintained here and abroad in connection with the FIPB approval and amicably resolved the issues relating to the violation of FEMA by the estranged couple's company INX Media Pvt Ltd.
It said the statements recorded so far clearly corroborate the accusation against Chidambaram and show that he is the "main conspirator of the entire offence" and the role of other potential accused is under investigation.
The agency said despite his arrest, Chidambaram continued to remain evasive while replying the questions put to him during interrogation or confrontation.
The CBI said Chidambaram is a very powerful and influential person and may influence the witnesses or tamper with the record and that the offences for which he is being probed are serious in nature and have far-reaching trans-border ramifications on the question of probity in public life.
The accused so far has ensured that that the investigating agency does not get the details sought in the Letters Rogatory (LR) which are the details to be supplied by the banks situated abroad, it said.
Chidambaram did not approach the trial court and had directly filed the regular bail plea in the high court.
He has sought bail saying that he is a law-abiding citizen having deep roots in the society and is not a flight risk and is willing to abide by all conditions as may be imposed by the high court while granting him the relief.
He claimed in his petition, filed through advocate Arshdeep Singh, that he has always cooperated in the investigation and will continue to do so in future as and when called by the investigating agency or the trial court.
All other accused in the case, including his son Karti and INX Media former promoters Indrani and Peter Mukherjea, have already been enlarged on regular bail or anticipatory bail or statutory bail, he said.
The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX 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.