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Aircel-Maxis case: HC seeks response of Chidambaram, son on ED's plea challenging anticipatory bail

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: October 11, 2019  | 19:21 IST

(Eds: Updating with details) New Delhi, Oct 11 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Friday asked former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti to file reply 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 probe agency's petition seeking cancellation of their anticipatory bail. The court listed the matter for further hearing on November 29 along with the CBI and the ED 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. The ED and the CBI later 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. There was no counsel present in the court to represent the Chidambarams in the 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. "After the Supreme Court's order, we immediately approached the trial court requesting to defer the order on anticipatory bail. However, the special judge said he has already signed the order and will pronounce it at 2 PM," he submitted. 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. Mehta referred to the trial court's order that the allegations against Chidambarams are also not of grave magnitude as the alleged money laundered is about Rs 1.13 crore which is paltry amount in comparison to allegations against Dayanidhi Maran and others, where the bribe amount was Rs 749 crore, but he (Dayanidhi) was not arrested. He said, "The then government chose not to arrest Dayanidhi Maran. But, we are pursuing the case in the high court and have challenged the order discharging him in the case." He contended that in the Aircel-Maxis case, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) the approval sought was for Rs 3,500-crore which was beyond the jurisdiction of the finance minister, still it was approved by Chidambaram. "We had told the trial court that Letters Rogatory have been sent to various countries and the responses are awaited but it went ahead with passing of the order," Mehta said. He said the father-son should not be granted pre-arrest bail as some witnesses are common in the Aircel-Maxis and INX Media case and the investigation could be hampered. The trial court had also granted anticipatory bail to the father-son duo in the Aircel Maxis case filed by the CBI. The ED, in its plea, 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 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. PTI SKV HMP SA

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