Chidambaram, Karti get relief from arrest in Aircel- Maxis case
A Delhi court on Thursday granted pre-arrest bail to former finance minister P Chidambaram and his son, Karti, in Aircel Maxis cases filed by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED), saying that charges against them were “not of grave magnitude” as the alleged money laundered is a “paltry amount” of Rs 1.13 crore.
Special Judge OP Saini directed the two to join the probe in the cases lodged by the two agencies and granted them pre-arrest bail on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and one surety of the same amount.
The court also ordered that they would not leave the country without its permission and not contact, threaten or influence any witnesses in the cases or tamper with evidence.
The Aircel-Maxis case relates to alleged irregularities in grant of Foreign Investment Promotion Board approval in the Aircel-Maxis deal when Chidambaram was the Union finance minister.
The CBI has alleged he had cleared investment of Rs 3,500 crore in Aircel Maxis though the cabinet committee of economic affairs was the competent authority to grant such approval. This was done wrongly projecting it as merely involving an investment of Rs 180 crore.
On February 2, 2017, a Delhi CBI court had discharged former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi Maran in the original case. The agency had accused them of pressurizing Chennai-based telecom promoter C Sivasankaran to sell his stakes in Aircel and two subsidiary firms to Malaysian firm Maxis Group in 2006.
Later, both the agencies had filed a supplementary charge sheet naming the Chidambaram and his son in the alleged scam.
The court, while granting the anticipatory bail, said the ED and CBI were seeking date after date since the filing of the complaint instead of arguing in the matter.
“This conduct of the agencies speaks for itself and needs no elaboration. The investigation was even otherwise highly belated as almost entire material was in possession of the investigating agencies since the very beginning,” the judge said.
The court said that considering the distance of time between the commission of the alleged crime and the filing of the instant pre-arrest bail application, “unexplained delay in investigation” and no possibility of the accused tampering with the evidence, it would be a fit case to grant the anticipatory bail.
“...there being no possibility of the accused of committing a similar crime again... I am satisfied that it is a fit case for grant of benefit of anticipatory bail,” the judge said. He added that an investigating agency should not discriminate against the two similarly situated accused, as this was against the rule of law.
“It may be noted that unwarranted discrimination in the treatment given to different accused in the same case violates the basic norm of the Constitution that the state instrumentalities should always operate in a just, fair and reasonable manner,” the judge said.
It added that there was no possibility for the father and son to commit similar crime as “they don’t hold any official position in government at present”. The judge also said that the witnesses, who are mainly bureaucrats and hence there is no “foreseeable possibility of them being threatened or influenced by any of the accused”.