“Corrupt” Congress Man Chidambaram Sent to Tihar Jail

P. Chidambaram. Photo: Congress
P. Chidambaram. Photo: Congress

While Congress has an image of India’s most corrupt political outfit, strangely it has not removed Chidambaram from the party.

By Rakesh Raman

P. Chidambaram – who is perceived to be one of the most corrupt politicians in the Congress party – experienced a massive blow today when the Supreme Court rejected his request for an anticipatory bail.

A special court has sent Chidambaram to Delhi’s Tihar jail in the INX Media corruption case. Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar sent the Congress leader to 14-day judicial custody (jail) till September 19. On his request, the court allowed 74-year-old Chidambaram to carry his medicines to jail where he will be kept in a high-security separate cell.

While Congress has an image of India’s most corrupt political outfit, strangely it has not removed Chidambaram from the party. The traditional party had suffered a crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election mainly because of huge corruption cases involving Congress leaders. Chidambaram’s case is one such case.

It is said that the ill-gotten money that Chidambaram has amassed is more than the GDP of many countries. Instead of forcefully saying that he has not committed any financial crime, Chidambaram and his lawyers are arguing that there is no evidence against him. In other words, they assert that Chidambaram has committed the acts of corruption so tactfully that he did not leave any fingerprints on his crimes.

Most politicians evade prosecution and imprisonment in cases of crime and corruption with the false pretexts that the complaints against them are politically motivated. Instead of giving proof of his innocence, Chidambaram and Congress are also blaming the government for targeting the Congress man.

India’s top anti-fraud agency Enforcement Directorate (ED) has accused Chidambaram of money-laundering in the INX Media case, which is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

As Chidambaram was facing arrest by the ED over corruption allegations in the INX Media case, he has been sent to Tihar jail, where the arrested felons are lodged when they fail to get bail after the expiry of their police custody.

In today’s hearing, the court observed that anticipatory bail has to be exercised sparingly in cases of economic offences and Chidambaram’s case does not deserve anticipatory bail. The Congress man has already spent 15 days in CBI custody.

The court concluded that in such cases of serious economic offences, the investigating agency has to be given sufficient freedom to conduct its probe, and the grant of bail at this stage would “frustrate” the ongoing investigation.

Earlier, on Tuesday, in response to a request by Chidambaram’s lawyer, the Supreme Court had decided not to send him to Tihar jail, although the court had extended his CBI custody for two days.

CASE DETAILS

The Supreme Court of India on August 26 had refused to entertain a plea that challenged the dismissal of Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail in a corruption case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the INX Media case.

The apex court observed that Chidambaram’s petition has become infructuous as he has already been arrested by the investigating agency. The Special CBI Court at Rouse Avenue Court Complex had extended Chidambaram’s CBI custody until August 30.

Appearing for the CBI, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had sought a 5-day extension of the remand granted earlier by the Special Court. Mehta argued that further custody of Chidambaram was required to reveal the larger conspiracy involved in the case. He added that Chidambaram needs to be interrogated on new evidence and documents that the CBI has received from the ED.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had rejected the anticipatory bail petition of Chidambaram in corruption and money laundering cases related to the INX Media scandal. Chidambaram had moved the top court for an urgent hearing hours after the Delhi High Court had dismissed his bail application.

Denying protection from arrest to Chidambaram, Justice Sunil Gaur had said categorically that Chidambaram’s status as a Member of Parliament (MP) and member of the legal profession won’t affect the decision in the case.

It is alleged that Chidambaram has not been fully cooperating with the investigating agencies in the INX Media case in which his son, Karti Chidambaram, has allegedly received kickbacks in exchange for illegally allowing the TV media company to receive foreign funds amounting to Rs. 305 crore in 2007.

The High Court order stated that prima facie, the “petitioner appears to be the kingpin of the entire scam” and has not cooperated with the investigation. “Magnitude and enormity of material produced dis-entitle him from any pre-arrest bail,” the court order said.

The court order added that economic offences have to be dealt with iron hands. “Investigating agencies’ hand cannot be tied up in such a massive economic offence.”

During the hearing, the ED contended that the companies in which the corruption money was transferred are directly or indirectly controlled by Chidambaram’s son Karti, and they have a reason to believe that the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval was granted to INX Media on his son’s intervention.

Reports suggest that various anti-corruption agencies were investigating Chidambaram’s role in the Rs. 3,500-crore Aircel-Maxis deal and the INX Media case. It was during his tenure as finance minister in the Congress government that clearances from the FIPB were given to the two companies.

First, the CBI had registered an FIR in the INX Media case on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance. Later, in 2018, the ED had lodged the money laundering case. Last year, ED had conducted raids at the Delhi and Chennai residences of Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis case.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also creates and publishes a number of digital publications on different subjects.

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Rakesh Raman