Having got enough protection from arrest multiple times earlier, has luck run out for P Chidambaram? The former Finance Minister and Congress leader was finally denied anticipatory bail in relation to INX Media Case by the Delhi High Court on 20th August, 2019.
What has the Court Said?
The Single Judge Bench of Justice Sunil Gaur pronouncing the order reportedly observed that “facts of the case prima facie reveal that” he is the “kingpin that is the key conspirator in the case”, and he was evasive in replies to probe agencies when he was under protective cover given by the court.
Calling it a “classic case of money laundering“, the court stated “magnitude and enormity” of material produced by the investigating agencies “dis-entitles him from any pre-arrest bail“.
The Court also dismissed the political vendetta argument by the Congress leader. According to a report by Bar and Bench, the court said that “(It is) preposterous to say prosecution of the petitioner (P Chidambaram) is baseless, politically motivated and act of vendetta.” It further added, “It cannot be forgotten that the petitioner was the Finance Minister at the relevant time and he had given FDI clearances to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 Crore…Simply because he is a Member of Parliament, it would not justify grant of pre arrest bail to him.”
“This is an economic offence and has to be dealt with iron hands… The hands of investigating agencies cannot be tied up in such a massive economic offence,” court added to the strongly worded order.
After the Delhi High Court’s order, the former Finance Minister moved Supreme Court seeking an urgent listing of the petition against the order.
What is the INX Media Case?
The INX Media case is related to the alleged irregularities in the clearance given by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to INX Media when P Chidambaram was the Finance Minister. Both Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have accused P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram of receiving illegal kickbacks from INX Media owners, Peter and Indrani Mukherjea for the clearance.
- INX Media was founded by Indrani Mukerjea in 2006. In the year 2007, INX Media applied for clearance with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), a unit under the Ministry of Finance which was headed by P Chidambaram during UPA I Government.
- According to the CBI (as reported here), the Board in its meeting on March 18, 2007, approved an FDI inflow of Rs 4.62 crore against INX Media. It did not, however, approve the downstream investment by INX Media in INX News.
- As per the FIR filed in the case, “contrary to the approval of FIPB conveyed…, M/s. INX Media (P) Limited deliberately and in violation of the conditions of the approval
(i) made a downstream investment to the extent of 26% in the capital of INX News (P) Limited without the specific approval of FIPB which included indirect foreign investment by the same foreign investors …
(ii) generated more than Rs. 305 crores FDI in INX Media (P) Limited against the approved foreign inflow of Rs. 4.62 crores by issuing the shares to the foreign investors at a premium of more than Rs. 800/- per share”.
- For above irregularities, in 2008, FIPB issued a letter to INX Media seeking clarification on both the issues.
- According to the FIR, “upon receipt of this letter from the FIPB Unit, M/s. INX Media (P) Limited in order to wriggle out of the situation without any punitive action, entered into a criminal conspiracy with Karti P. Chidambaram, son of Shri P. Chidambaram, the then Finance Minister of India, and Promoter Director of M/s. Chess Management Services (P) Limited, Chennai, so as to get the issues resolved/addressed amicably by influencing the public servants of the FIPB Unit of Ministry of Finance by virtue of his relationship with the then Finance Minister”.
- On the basis of clarifications suggested by the Chess Management Services (P) Limited, INX Media (P) Limited through their letter reportedly tried to justify their action to FIPB on both the counts.
- CBI alleged that Karti Chidambaram, Congress Leader, used his influence on concerned officials of the board to not only ignore the violations and serious illegality on the part of INX Media, but it also deliberately asked INX Media to apply afresh for the FIPB approval with respect the downstream investment which had already been made by INX Media.
- INX Media, according to the CBI, allegedly made the payments to M/s Advantage Strategic Consulting (P) Limited (ASCPL), indirectly controlled by Karti Chidambaram.
- CBI also alleged that INX group in its record has clearly mentioned the purpose of payment of Rs. 10 lacs to M/s Advantage Strategic Consulting (P) Ltd as towards “Management consultancy charges towards FIPB notification and clarification”. According to the CBI, “payment was deliberately made to M/s Advantage Strategic Consulting (P) Ltd, indirectly controlled by Karti Chidambaram for the services rendered by M/s Chess Management Services (P) Ltd where Karti Chidambaram was the promoter director”, to conceal his identity in the alleged kickbacks.
- Further, according to the CBI, “information also disclosed that the invoices for approximately an amount of Rs. 3.5 crores were also got raised in favour of M/s. INX group in the name of other companies in which Shri Karti P. Chidambaram was having sustainable interests either directly or indirectly”. CBI alleged that they were falsely raised.