New Delhi: The Supreme Court said Wednesday there was no material to indicate that Congress leader P Chidambaram or anyone on his behalf had ‘restrained or threatened’ a witness who refused to be confronted with him during probe in the INX Media money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The apex court, which granted bail to the 74-year-old former Finance Minister in the case, dealt with the ED submissions that he wields influence over witnesses and there was likelihood of tampering of evidence.
“With regard to the witness having written that he is not prepared to be confronted as he is from the same state, the appellant (Chidambaram) cannot be held responsible for the same when there is no material to indicate that the appellant or anyone on his behalf had restrained or threatened the concerned witness who refused to be confronted with the appellant in custody,” a bench headed by Justice R Banumathi said.
The bench, which also comprised justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, set aside the November 15 verdict of the Delhi High Court denying Chidambaram bail in the case.
The top court noted submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who had appeared for the ED and said that although there was not much grievance with regard to the high court’s conclusion that Chidambaram is not a ‘flight risk’, the finding on likelihood of tampering and influencing witness has not been considered in its ‘correct perspective’.
“The finding in that regard has not been assailed and in such event, the appellant in our opinion cannot be taken by surprise. Even otherwise as rightly observed by the single judge (of high court) the evidence and material stated to have been collected is already available with the investigating agency,” the bench said in its 37-page verdict.
The bench also contradicted ED’s submissions that having held a ‘very high position’ and also due to his status, Chidambaram is likely to influence witnesses.
“In the present situation the appellant is not in political power nor is he holding any post in the Government of the day so as to be in a position to interfere. In that view such allegation cannot be accepted on its face value,” the bench opined.
It said that availability of Chidambaram for further investigation, interrogation and facing trial is not jeopardised and he is already held to be not a ‘flight risk’ and there is no possibility of tampering the evidence or influencing or intimidating the witnesses.
Chidambaram has been in custody since August 21 when he was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in INX Media corruption case. The ED arrested him October 16 in the separate money laundering case. Six days later, on October 22, the apex court had granted him bail in the case lodged by the CBI.
Meanwhile Chidambaram’s son Karti has said that the former minister will attend Parliament from Thursday itself. It should be stated here that P Chidambaram is a Rajya Sabha member from Tamil Nadu