INX media case: SC sends notice to ED on PC's bail plea

The Supreme Court put Chidambaram's petition for consideration on November 26.Wikimedia commons Image)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Enforcement Directorate on a plea for bail by former Union Minister P Chidambaram.

A bench of Justices R Banumathi, A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy has sought a response from the investigating agency by November 25 and put Chidambaram's petition for consideration on November 26.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the senior Congress leader, the petitioner was 74-year-old and he was in jail for about 91 days. The High Court has noted that there was no flight risk with him and no chances of him influencing the witnesses or tampering with the evidence, he said.

He made the brief submission, prompting the court to seek a response from the ED.

Chidambaram challenged the validity of the Delhi High Court's order of November 15 which rejected his bail plea in a money laundering case in connection with the INX media scam.

The HC had rejected his plea saying that the prima facie charges against him were serious and he played a key and active role in the scam.

In his petition, he cited his “fragile” health and incarceration for about 91 days at the pre-trial stage, to seek the relief.

Chidambaram assailed the HC's order, saying there was a “patent non-application of mind” with “insertion of facts relating to a distinct and different case of one Rohit Tandon into the factual context of his case”. He also contended portions from the ED's affidavit were reproduced in the HC's order.

Chidambaram is now lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody in the ED's money laundering case in connection with the irregularities in foreign investment to the INX media group in 2007. He was first arrested by the CBI on August 21.

Though the Supreme Court granted him bail on October 22, he could not walk out of prison since he was put under arrest on October 16 by the ED in a separate money laundering case.

In his petition, he said there was no allegation that he was a flight risk following issuance of a Look Out Circular (LOC). Further, there was nothing on record to show tampering of evidence, since all the materials related to the case were with the agencies, government or the courts.

“A person cannot be directed to suffer pre-trial incarceration in the form of punishment even before trial for the reason that a wrong message would go out to the public at large inasmuch as all other accused are either on bail or were not even arrested. In fact, the “wrong message” is in denying bail to one accused alone (i.e. the petitioner),” his petition stated.

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