In a setback to former Union minister P Chidambaram, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to grant him pre-arrest bail in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate.
The top court dismissed Chidambaram’s plea challenging the Delhi High Court verdict denying him anticipatory bail in the case, saying economic offence has to be dealt with differently as it affects economy of the country.
A bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna said it is not a fit case to grant anticipatory bail. Grant of anticipatory bail to Chidambaram at this stage will hamper investigation, it said.
The Congress leader’s 15-day CBI custody, ordered by the special court in five spells, which started after his arrest on August 21 night, comes to end today and he will be produced before the trial court.
The investigating agency has to be given sufficient freedom to conduct probe into the case, the apex court said. It also rejected Chidambaram’s application for direction to the ED to produce transcripts of his questioning conducted by the agency on three dates.
The top court said it has power to peruse case diary even before commencement of trial and added that it has refrained from perusing documents placed before it by ED in sealed cover as it may prejudice other accused.
Anticipatory bail is not a matter of right and refusing the relief is not violation of Article 21, it said. The apex court, however, said Chidambaram can approach the court concerned for grant of regular bail in the case.
The CBI had lodged an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in FIPB clearance granted to 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 2017.
The Delhi High Court had on August 20, rejected anticipatory bail pleas of Chidambaram in the INX media scam cases lodged by the CBI and ED.
The high court held that he was “prima facie the kingpin” in the INX Media corruption and money laundering cases and “simply because he is a Member of Parliament would not justify grant of pre arrest bail to him”.
Holding that the former Union minister’s custodial interrogation was required for an effective investigation, the high court had said, “granting bail in cases like the instant one will send a wrong message to the society”.