INX Media case: Court extends interim bail of Khullar

INX Media case: Court extends interim bail of Khullar

A Delhi court on Tuesday extended the interim bail granted to former NITI Aayog CEO Sindhushree Khullar and others till January 27 in the INX Media corruption case.

During brief proceedings, the CBI opposed the bail application moved by the six accused, saying they may tamper with the evidence if granted relief.

The court adjourned the matter after senior advocate Siddharth Luthra and advocate Vikash Kumar Pathak, appearing for the accused, sought time to advance arguments on replies filed by the CBI.

Special Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar also granted exemption from personal appearance to former union minister P Chidambaram, an accused in the case, for Tuesday.

Besides Khullar, the court also extended relief to former Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to finance minister Pradeep Kumar Bagga and former FIPB director Prabodh Saxena.

The interim relief granted to former section officer of the FIPB unit in the Finance Ministry Ajeet Kumar Dungdung, then under secretary in the FIPB unit Rabindra Prasad and former joint secretary (Foreign Trade) DEA Anup K Pujari were also extended by the court.

During the hearing, the agency told the court that "during the course of investigation conducted into the case, criminal role of accused persons had come on record in the commission of the alleged offence".

"The bail application of the accused persons is opposed on the ground that in the event of the them being enlarged on bail, there is every possibility that they may abscond, be not available for trail and there is every likelihood that they may tamper with the prosecution evidence which may adversely affect the trial of the case," the CBI said.

The court had granted the bail to them on a personal bond of Rs 2 lakh and one surety of the like amount.

The court had in October taken cognisance of a charge sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the INX Media corruption case against Chidambaram and 13 others, who are accused of various offences, including those under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The probe agency had claimed in the final report that Chidambaram "misused his official position", in conspiracy with his son Karti and others, in granting approval to a FDI proposal of TINX Media and INX News Pvt Ltd in lieu of "illegal gratification" in India and through offshore payments.

The court had summoned Karti and the 12 other accused in the case on November 29.

Besides Karti and Peter Mukerjea, who are currently on bail, and chartered accountant S Bhaskaraman, who is currently on anticipatory bail in the case, the court also summoned others, including various former and current public servants.

Those summoned include Khullar, Dungdung, Prasad, Bagga, Saxena and Pujari.

The court had also summoned INX Media Pvt Ltd, presently 9X Media Pvt Ltd; INX News Pvt Ltd, presently Direct News; Chess Management Services Pvt Ltd and Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd (ASCPL) through their representatives.

The CBI registered an FIR on May 15, 2017 alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as Union finance minister.

The report was filed under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), read with 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record) of the Indian Penal Code and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, including section 9 (taking gratification, for exercise of personal influence with public servant).

The maximum punishment for these offences is seven years.

The name of Indrani Mukerjea, a former promoter of INX Media and an accused-turned approver, also appears in the final report. 

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