New Delhi: The Supreme Court said the submission of material in a sealed cover by investigating agency may potentially prejudice the accused’s pre-trial, while granting bail to senior Congress leader P Chidambaram in a money laundering case lodged by Enforcement Directorate in the INX Media scam.
On the last day of hearing, the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing ED, had submitted three sealed cover envelopes containing material connected with the case.
A bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy observed that the Delhi High Court, which denied bail to Chidambaram last month, ought not to have recorded a finding based on the materials produced in a sealed cover.
“This court consciously refrained from opening the sealed cover and perusing the documents lest some observations are made thereon after perusal of the which would prejudice the accused pre-trial”, said the court.
The apex court has also imposed conditions on the bail — Chidambaram’s passport will remain confiscated, and he will not be allowed to leave the country without permission, he will give no interviews to the press, and he will also make himself available for interrogation in the matter.
The court directed Chidambaram to deposit bail bonds of Rs 2 lakh with two sureties subject to satisfaction of the special judge hearing the case. The top court observed that the bail order will not have any effect on action against other accused in the case.
The apex court also ordered the Registry to return the sealed covers submitted to the bench by the ED on the last day of the hearing, containing evidence connected to the case. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Chidambaram asked the court asked for certified copy of the order to produce before the special judge conducting the trial of the INX Media case on Wednesday.
The apex court observing the gravity of the economic offences said that bail is the rule and jail the exception, and Chidambaram had already spent many days in custody of the ED.
Granting bail to Chidambaram, the top court said that even if the allegation is one of grave economic offence, it is not a rule that bail should be denied in every case since there is no such bar created in the relevant enactment passed by the legislature nor does the bail jurisprudence provides so.
Speaking after P Chidambaram was granted bail by the SC, his son Karti Chidambaram said, “I am very happy that he is going to be back home, I am relieved. He will also be attending Parliament session tomorrow. It’s definitely a relief. I am very happy my father’s coming out. This has been unwarranted incarceration, Karti said.