New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) opposed the bail plea of former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Friday and told the Supreme Court that he had tried to “pressurise and influence” key witnesses in the INX Media case.
After hearing both the sides, the bench of Justices R. Banumathi, A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy reserved the order on Chidambaram’s bail plea.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the statements of witnesses showing a clear case of former minister influencing witnesses was seen by the High Court based on which a categorical finding was recorded by the High Court.
Mehta said that the statements of witnesses are placed before the trial court but not along with the chargesheet so as to ensure anonymity of these witnesses and to ensure that they are not further pressurized.
Mehta said that the witness knows the key details of the case and his statement is also recorded before a magistrate and thus the apprehension expressed by such witness is not before the investigating agency but before a judicial authority.
He also informed the court that one of the co-accused Indrani Mukerjea has been granted pardon and made an approver.
As the investigation in the case is at a crucial stage, the release of Chidambaram would pose a serious threat to the investigation more particularly when the accused – who is very influential and powerful – is capable of not only influencing the witnesses but his mere presence would intimidate witnesses and hamper the investigation, Mehta said.
“Under the circumstances, it would be hazardous and against the interest of the investigation to release the accused on bail at such a crucial stage,” CBI said.
Besides the apprehension expressed by such a witness is not before the investigating agency but before a judicial authority under section 164 Cr.P.C. Furthermore, one of the co-accused persons who has been approached by the petitioner or his representative has been granted tender of pardon by a court and has been made an approver after following the procedure laid down under section 306 Cr.P.C.
Mehta also pointed out that the gravity and seriousness of the offences committed by the former minister indicate a strong possibility of his conviction which Chidambaram would like to avoid and can flee from justice. There is a chance of flight risk as Chidambaram has the financial capacity to sustain himself outside India to avoid such conviction, Mehta said citing the example of some accused without naming anyone.
He also said that the former minister can tamper with evidence.
However, Chidambaram’s counsel and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal countered the CBI’s arguments citing the 2G allocation case where the accused were acquitted by a trial court despite the filing of a chargesheet in the case.
But Mehta said that the matter is sub judice as the CBI has filed an appeal in the case before the High Court. Mehta’s interference during the arguments irked Sibal who said that first they threaten and now they are interfering during his arguments.
He also told the court that the former minister, who is 74 years old, has lost 4.5 kg weight despite getting home cooked food inside the Jail. Sibal said that Chidambaram would abide by every condition imposed by the court.
During the hearing, Mehta said that the former minister misused his position for personal gain and thus is not entitled to any relief as granting him relief would not only be against the zero tolerance policy on corruption and but would also be setting a very wrong precedence in all corruption cases.
Chidambaram was arrested on August 21, and is currently lodged in Tihar jail under judicial custody.
The CBI on Friday chargesheeted him with other accused in the INX media corruption case.