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INX Media case: ED opposes relief to Karti Chidambaram; top 10 developments

BS Web Team/New Delhi 13 Mar 18 | 02:51 PM

Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P Chidambaram, arrives at Patiala House courts in connection with the INX Media money laundering case, in New Delhi | PTI Photo

The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order that granted relief to Karti Chidambaram, who was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the INX Media corruption case, in the money laundering case registered against him. 

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The Delhi High Court on March 10 had restrained the central probe agency from arresting Karti Chidambaram till March 20. 

Meanwhile, Delhi High Court Justice Indermeet Kaur recused from hearing Karti Chidambaram's bail plea. The matter has now been referred to another Bench.

Karti Chidambaram, businessman and son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, has moved the Delhi High Court seeking bail in connection with the INX media case. The high court will hear his petition on March 13. Currently, Karti has been sent to judicial custody till March 25 in the INX Media Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance case. 

On Monday it was reported that the court refused Karti's plea for a separate cell in the jail in view of threat perception, as during his father's tenure as Union Home Minister, several terrorists were kept in Tihar jail. The court said that while the social status of the Chidambaram family could not be ignored, Karti could not be treated differently from the other accused persons. 

"However, only keeping in view the fact of social status of accused and his father, he cannot be treated differently from other accused persons and cannot be allowed to be kept in separate prison. However, lock up in-charge and jail superintendent are directed to provide and ensure proper security and safety to accused during judicial custody, as per rules," the court said.

Karti was arrested by the CBI on his return from the United Kingdom in connection with an FIR lodged on May 15 last year. The probe agency alleged irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to a media house, INX Media, for receiving funds of about Rs 3.05 billion (Rs 305 crore) from overseas in 2007 when his father was the Union finance minister.

Initially, the CBI had alleged that Karti Chidambaram received Rs 1 million (Rs 10 lakh) as a bribe for facilitating the FIPB clearance to INX Media. It, however, later revised the figure to $1 million (about Rs 6.50 crore at the current exchange rate and Rs 4.50 crore in 2007). The fresh evidence in the case, which triggered Karti's arrest, was based on a statement by Indrani Mukerjea, former director of INX Media (P) Ltd, who recorded it under Section 164 of the CrPC before a magistrate on February 17. 

Here are the top 10 developments around the Karti Chidambaram INX Media corruption case: 

1) ED moves SC against HC order giving relief to Karti: The Supreme Court will hear the ED's plea against the Delhi High Court order on Karti Chidambaram in the money laundering case arising out of the INX Media matter on March 15.  

On Tuesday, the Enforcement Directorate approached the apex court against the Delhi High Court order, which had granted relief to Karti Chidambaram.

#INXMediaCase: Enforcement Directorate approached the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order, which had granted relief to #KartiChidambaram in the money laundering case registered against him.

— ANI (@ANI) March 13, 2018

Advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the probe agency, mentioned the ED's appeal for urgent hearing. On March 9, the Delhi High Court gave Karti Chidambaram a breather in a money laundering case and restrained the ED from arresting him till March 20. 

2) Delhi HC judge recuses from hearing Karti's bail plea: Delhi High Court's Justice Indermeet Kaur on Tuesday recused herself from hearing Karti Chidambaram's bail plea in the INX Media corruption case. Justice Kaur did not give any reason for her recusal. She said that she would refer the matter to the Acting Chief Justice for assigning the bail plea to another Bench for Tuesday itself.  

ALSO READ: Karti Chidambaram sent to 13-day custody; seeks Delhi HC's help; highlights

On Monday, the bail plea mentioned before a Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar and was listed for hearing on Tuesday. Karti had moved the high court seeking bail, hours after a court in New Delhi had sent him to judicial custody till March 24. 

3) HC to hear Karti's plea challenging lookout circular today: On Monday, the Madras High Court posted to Tuesday a plea filed by Karti Chidambaram challenging the lookout circular issued against him in the case filed by the CBI.  

The Madras High Court's first Bench, comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose, which heard oral arguments submitted on the plea, posted the matter for submission of written arguments to March 13. 

When the matter came up, senior counsel for Karti, Gopal Subramaniam, submitted that the CBI ought not to have arrested Karti at the Chennai airport on February 28 at the time of his return from London to India, in compliance with a court condition. "The agency should have obtained the leave of the high court before arresting Karti," he said. The counsel submitted that the CBI has failed to mention the reasons for issuing such a circular.

ALSO READ:  ED moves SC against HC order giving relief to Karti Chidambaram from arrest 

Denying the contention, Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan submitted that the high court in its order has not stated anything about his arrest while permitting him to travel abroad. Moreover, it was up to the investigating agency to decide whom to arrest and where, he submitted. Karti's failure to appear before the investigating officer despite the directions of the Supreme Court led to the issuance of a lookout notice, he said.

4) Karti Chidambaram seeks bail: Karti Chidambaram on Monday moved the Delhi High Court seeking bail. A Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said that the matter would be heard on Tuesday by an appropriate Bench after the counsel for Karti, senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, moved the court seeking bail. 

Earlier in the day, Karti was sent to judicial custody in the INX Media corruption case by a special court, which dismissed his plea that he be put in a separate cell in Tihar Jail in view of certain threat perceptions. Further, the court dismissed Karti's appeal for an urgent hearing on his bail plea and the threat perception due to the fact that his father, as a Union minister in the previous UPA government, had handled several sensitive issues.

Karti was produced before the trial court on the expiry of his three-day police remand. 

ALSO READ: 13-day jail for Karti in INX Media case, no special cell for him in Tihar

5) Karti sent to Tihar till March 24: On Monday, Karti Chidambaram was sent to judicial custody till March 24 by a court in the INX Media corruption case. After the CBI told Special Judge Sunil Rana that they did not require further custody of Karti, the court remanded him to judicial custody.  

6) No special cell for Karti: The Delhi court also dismissed Karti's plea to provide him a separate cell in Tihar Jail due to his threat perception.

Defence counsels Dayan Krishnan and Mohit Mathur told the court that Karti Chidambaram's father has dealt with various stringent penal laws such as TADA, MCOCA, Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act, and NDPS Act. Various undertrials facing prosecution under the mentioned laws were lodged in Tihar Jail where Karti Chidambaram would be lodged during his period of judicial custody, hence there was fear over his security. The defence counsels requested the court to issue direction regarding allotment of separate prison during his judicial custody.

CBI's counsel V K Sharma submitted that the apprehension of the accused was without any basis as the accused had regularly been visiting abroad. Stressing on Karti Chidambaram's visits, he said that if the accused did not face any threat then, how did he now fear it in the jail, where there was the deployment of a large number of security personnel.  

Reacting to the probe agency's submission, defence counsel said that there was a serious apprehension of threat to Karti Chidambaram's life as the CBI was opposing his plea seeking security arrangements in Tihar Jail. Citing the example of biscuit baron Rajan Pillai's death in custody, Karti Chidambaram's counsel raised concerns that there was a pre-planned conspiracy "to do something to his client while he is being lodged in jail". 

Observing the counsel's submission, the court said that the apprehension raised by the senior counsel of the accused could not be ignored keeping in view his social status, but more specifically, due to his father's, who is a former Union minister. "Only keeping in view the fact of social status of accused and his father, he cannot be treated differently from other accused persons and cannot be allowed to be kept in a separate prison," the court said. 

However, the court directed the lock-up in-charge and jail superintendent of Tihar Jail to provide and ensure proper safety and security to the accused during his judicial custody as per rules. 

ALSO READ: INX Media Case: Hear me before ED arrest order, Karti Chidambaram urges SC

7) Not many luxuries for Karti inside Tihar: The court allowed Karti's plea to carry spectacles and medicines, as per prescription, subject to examination and approval by the jail doctor, as per rules. However, the court rejected his plea seeking to carry books, toilettries, clothes, and other items.

8) HC displeased by scribe's mischievous tweets: On Monday, the Delhi High Court dubbed as "mischievous" certain tweets by the editor of a Chennai-based Tamil language weekly news magazine in connection with its decision granting interim protection from arrest to Karti Chidambaram. A Bench of Justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta said the "mischievous innuendo", posted by Swaminathan Gurumurthy, the editor of Thuglak magazine, within a few hours of the court's March 9 order in the INX media case, immediately invited responses which "spread the misinformation in the innuendo several times over, not sparing the judge presiding over the matter, nor the judiciary".

The high court said one of the two tweets by the senior scribe was "directly attacking the Supreme Court". The Bench also noted that despite tweets by others in response to the innuendo and clarifying the correct position, "he (editor) cared not to withdraw the mischievous and false tweet".

The editor had posed a question as to whether Justice Muralidhar, who was part of the Bench that had passed the order granting protection to Karti Chidambaram, was a junior of former UPA minister and senior advocate P Chidambaram. 

The Bench said it was not issuing any contempt of court notice to the editor now and asked the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta and its standing counsel Amit Mahajan, to consider whether such tweets have the tendency to scandalise the legal profession and what appropriate remedial action was required in the instant case.

I understand Justice Muralidharan called both side lawyers & told them that he was never PC junior. He felt sad judges have no protection against social media wrong news. Judges need it. I have deleted the tweet asking whether he was PC junior.

— S Gurumurthy (@sgurumurthy) March 12, 2018

9) Karti's CA seeks anticipatory bail: Karti's chartered accountant, S Bhaskararaman, who is currently in jail in a case filed by the ED, has moved the court for anticipatory bail in the CBI case of INX Media. The court is likely to hear the CBI matter on March 19.

The court is also likely to pronounce its order on Bhaskararaman's bail plea in the ED case on Tuesday. 

10) Karti alleges 'inhuman treatment' in CBI custody: Karti Chidambaram on Friday told a Delhi court that the CBI was meting out "inhuman treatment" to him in its custody, which caused his blood pressure to shoot up.

The accusations were made by Karti when he was produced before special judge Sunil Rana who directed the CBI sleuths to "do the needful, as per rules".    With agency inputs

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