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INX Media case: Chidambaram seeks bail in SC, says CBI wants to keep him in jail to humiliate him

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: October 15, 2019  | 17:11 IST

(Eds: Adding background) New Delhi, Oct 15 (PTI) Former finance minister P Chidambaram Tuesday sought bail from the Supreme Court in the INX Media corruption case saying the CBI wants to keep him in custody to humiliate him. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Chidambaram, told the bench headed by Justice R Banumathi that there were no allegations about the former finance minister or his family members having ever tried to approach or influence any witness in the case. The lawyers told the apex court that there are no allegations of financial loss or siphoning of funds They also questioned the findings of the Delhi High Court, which had rejected Chidambaram's bail plea on September 30, saying it should not have referred to the merits of the case while deciding a bail petition. The court will hear on Wednesday the arguments of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI. Meanwhile, a trial court Tuesday allowed the Enforcement Directorate to interrogate Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case and said that if required, the agency can arrest him. The CBI had Monday challenged in the apex court the findings of the high court, which had observed while denying bail to the senior Congress leader, that he was not a flight risk and could not tamper with evidence. The high court had decided 74-year-old Chidambaram's bail petition on three aspects -- flight risk, tampering with evidence and influencing of witnesses. On flight risk and tampering with evidence, the high court had ruled in favour of Chidambaram, while on the third count of influencing witnesses, the verdict had gone against him. The high court had said Chidambaram was not a "flight risk" and there was no chance of his tampering with evidence but he could influence witnesses if granted bail. Challenging the high court order denying him bail, Chidambaram had earlier approached the apex court, which issued a notice to the CBI, asking the investigative agency to respond to the plea. Chidambaram, who is lodged in Tihar Jail here under judicial custody till October 17 in the INX Media corruption case, was arrested by the CBI on August 21. The CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in a 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 finance minister. Thereafter, the ED lodged a money-laundering case in this regard in 2017. Chidambaram had challenged the high court's September 30 order, saying his continued incarceration was in the "form of punishment" and the liberty of an individual could not be denied on the basis of "anonymous and unverified allegations". He has said in his plea that "conclusive findings" have been rendered by the high court on the basis of the documents placed before it in a "sealed envelope" by the CBI, which were neither part of the record nor shown to him, and he was not given an opportunity to rebut the same. He has said that the high court has "erred" in dismissing his bail plea on a mere apprehension that he may influence witnesses, without any supporting material, and on the basis of unverified allegations that do not allege or point anything against him. He has also denied the high court's finding that INX Media's former promoters -- Indrani and Peter Mukerjea -- had met him and "illegal gratification" was paid. Chidambaram has further said that the case does not relate to an "economic offence" and there was no loss to the public exchequer. He has also denied the high court's finding that a large amount of money had come into companies owned or controlled by alleged co-conspirator and his son Karti. He has said the other accused in the case, including Karti, have already been granted bail or interim protection by the courts and it will be "manifestly unjust and illegal" to deny him the relief. The Congress leader has urged the apex court to grant him interim bail till his appeal is decided. PTI ABA LLP SA

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