New Delhi: Former finance minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday approached the Delhi high court seeking anticipatory bail in the INX Media case, hours after securing interim protection from arrest in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
The plea comes after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) asked him to appear before the investigating agency on 31 May for questioning in the INX Media case.
The summons to him come a month after his son, Karti Chidambaram was granted bail in the case.
CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) have been probing Chidambaram’s and his son Karti’s role in the alleged kickbacks for facilitating Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to the media company in 2007.
Chidambaram sought anticipatory bail on the ground that CBI has “suddenly and in a completely mala fide manner" issued the notice dated 28 May directing him to appear despite the fact that he has not been named in the First Information Report (FIR) as an accused.
Another reason for Chidamabaram’s apprehension of arrest was based on the circumstances under which his son was arrested by the CBI. He also relied on the arrest of his chartered accountant, S. Bhaskararaman by the ED on 18 February, in spite of cooperating with the agency.
“Cases are going on. Anyone on whom there are charges take relief from the court and it is their right also. One will act on the basis of suggestions given by their lawyers. And like we have been saying because of political vendetta cases like this are being filed against him," former Union minister and Congress leader R.P.N. Singh said on Wednesday in New Delhi.
P. Chidambaram declined to comment on the case.
People familiar with the development claimed that the CBI was set to probe the former minister’s involvement in the case at the time when he was the Union finance minister, based on INX Media director Indrani Mukerjea’s statements.
Mukerjea had told the agency in April that P. Chidambaram had “directed" her to Karti Chidambaram.
It was also submitted that the proceedings against Chidambaram were mala fide and borne out of political vendetta.
“The investigating agency is acting at the behest of the central government, which wants to malign the untainted and unimpeachable reputation of the petitioner, who is a senior leader of the Indian National Congress (INC) and was also the former Union finance minister and former home minister.", the petition stated.
Questions regarding Chidambaram influencing any witnesses or tampering with documentary evidence do not arise as the events leading to the grant of FIPB approval to INX Media related to the years 2007 and 2008 and all documents relating to the approval are in safe possession of the incumbent government, it was further claimed.
Karti has been accused of receiving Rs10 lakh in kickbacks in connection with the FIPB clearance worth Rs305 crore for INX Media, owned by Peter and Indrani Mukerjea. This, at a time, when Chidamabaram was the finance minister under the UPA-I government.
Earlier in the day, Chidambaram was granted protection from arrest in the Aircel-Maxis money laundering case by a special court until 5 June. Justice O.P. Saini issued notice to ED and asked Chidambaram to appear before the agency on 5 June in accordance with the summons issued earlier. The court added that no coercive action could be taken against Chidambaram till then.
On 28 February, a special court of the CBI had sent Karti Chidambaram to a day’s CBI custody, hours after he was arrested by the agency from the Chennai airport in connection with the INX Media bribery case. He is now out on bail.
The interim bail plea by Chidambaram will come up for hearing at 10.30am on Thursday in the court of justice A.K. Pathak, before he appears for questioning before the CBI.