CHENNAI: The first bench of the Madras High Court on Monday reserved for February 16, its orders on a miscellaneous petition praying for a direction to CBI to permit Karti, son of former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, to travel to UK and other European countries in connection with his daughter’s studies and his own business purposes respectively.
A bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose reserved its orders, after hearing elaborate arguments by senior counsel Gopal Subramanium and Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) G Rajagopalan.By a look out circular (LOC) dated August 16 and 18, 2017, CBI had restrained Karti from leaving India, on the basis of an FIR registered by it in the alleged irregular approval of `305 crore foreign investment in INX Media, at his instance when his father was the Union Finance Minister, in 2007.
As to the main plea assailing the validity of the LOC, the bench directed the CBI to file a counter affidavit by February 25 and posted the matter to March 3 for further hearing.
Earlier, during the course of hearing, Subramanium contended that Karti had already appeared before the agency for inquiry and assured cooperation in future. This apart, the petitioner and his family were before the court and he was not a fugitive against whom lookout notices could be issued. There is no justification for the apprehension that he would not come back as he has his roots here, he added.
Opposing the arguments, Rajagopalan said, “Karti is seeking permission for a business trip. If it is for any emergency or medical reasons, the agency would not have objected to it. But, when it comes to his private interest and interest of the probe, the latter prevails. Moreover, his business affair is the subject matter of the probe.”
Furthermore, during investigation, the agency got leads of money trail of the alleged offence reaching the shores of UK and other European countries. There is a real and potential danger that his presence in the countries would result in tampering with the evidence against him,” Rajagopalan said.
This apart, the LOC is valid only for three more months. Probably the agency would also complete the investigation by that time. The petitioner could very well plan his travel after such time, he said.
Justifying that Karti has no intention to flee India, Subramanium said, “The entire family has only one property abroad. They have clearly submitted before the Supreme Court through an affidavit that if the agency could point out one undisclosed property belonging to them, they are ready to transfer the same to the government.” How could one apprehend that a person who had submitted an affidavit to such effect can flee the country, Subramanium wondered.
To this, the ASG submitted that the petitioner returning back to India is not the primary issue. There is something more to it. “We could not understand the urgency in the trip, he can wait till the probe is completed”, he said.