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Saturday, Dec 07, 2019

SC didn’t accept P Chidambaram’s key argument. Why he still got bail: 5 Points

Chidambaram’s main argument in Supreme Court against the Delhi high court judgment was that the high court declined bail despite rejecting concerns that Chidambaram is a flight risk, could tamper with evidence or influence witnesses.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2019 18:20 IST
Murali Krishnan
Murali Krishnan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
In this Sep. 2, 2019 file photo, Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram after being produced at Rouse Avenue Court in connection with INX media case, in New Delhi.
In this Sep. 2, 2019 file photo, Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram after being produced at Rouse Avenue Court in connection with INX media case, in New Delhi. (PTI)
         

The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to former Union finance minister P Chidambaram in the money laundering cases related to irregularities in overseas funds received by INX Media group in 2007.

A bench of three judges comprising justices R Banumathi, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy set aside a November 15 order of Delhi high court to release Chidambaram on bail though it had rejected one of the main arguments advanced by Chidambaram.

Chidambaram’s main argument in Supreme Court against the Delhi high court judgment was that the high court declined bail despite rejecting concerns that Chidambaram is a flight risk, could tamper with evidence or influence witnesses.

The reason given by the high court for rejecting bail plea was that economic offences, as in the present case, are “gravest offences against the society at large” and are, hence, required to be treated differently when it comes to grant of bail.

Chidambaram’s lawyers had contested this ground, stating that gravity of offence can be a ground for denial of bail only in extraordinary cases where the accused is a habitual offender, child molester or terrorist. He had also contended that the money laundering charge is not “grave” or “serious” since the offence carries a punishment of up to 7 years jail.

The Supreme Court affirmed the high court’s view and held that the high court was correct in considering the gravity of offence while deciding bail plea. The Supreme Court also held that economic offences would fall under the category of “grave offence” but ruled that this did not imply that bail should be rejected in all such cases.

The following five factors tilted the scales in favour of Chidambaram.

Age and health

Chidambaram’s age and his deteriorating health weighed in the mind of the Supreme Court bench.

The court in its order said that Chidambaram is aged about 74 years and as per the high court order, he has suffered two bouts of illness during incarceration. Further, the court also said that he was put on antibiotics and was advised to take steroids of maximum strength.

Not a flight risk

The Supreme Court referred to the Delhi high court judgment which had concluded that Chidambaram is not a fight risk and there is no possibility of him tampering the evidence or influencing witnesses. The Supreme Court found no reason to overturn the said findings.

Co-accused granted bail

The apex court noted that the co-accused had already been granted bail by the Delhi high court while another enjoyed interim protection from arrest.Karti Chidambaram had been granted bail by the Delhi high court on 23 March 2018, which was confirmed by the Supreme Court on 3 August 2018. Another co-accused S Bhaskararaman was granted anticipatory bail by the trial Court on 4 April 2018 and the same was not challenged by Enforcement Directorate. The trial court had granted bail to co-accused Indrani Mukherjea on 13 April 2018 while Peter Mukherjea was granted bail on 28 May 2018.

Chidambaram was available for custodial interrogation

The court also noted that Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail was declined earlier and he was available for custodial interrogation for more than 45 days.

Available for further probe

Based on the above reasons, the apex court concluded that Chidambaram would be available for further interrogation, investigation and trial and thought it fit to release him on bail.