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Indian Case Summary

P. Chidambaram vs Directorate Of Enforcement on 4 December, 2019 – Case summary

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In the case of P. Chidambaram vs Directorate Of Enforcement on 4 December 2019, the Supreme Court of India was called upon to adjudicate on an appeal filed by P. Chidambaram, the appellant, against the final order passed by the High Court of Delhi, which declined to grant him regular bail. The case was presided over by a bench comprising R. Banumathi, A.S. Bopanna, and Hrishikesh Roy.

Facts of the Case

The case originated from an FIR registered by the CBI against INX Media Private Limited and others, alleging violations of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) guidelines. The FIR accused INX Media of making a downstream investment in INX News without approval and generating more than Rs. 305 crores in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) against the approved foreign inflow of Rs. 4.62 crores. It was alleged that INX Media entered into a criminal conspiracy with Mr. Karti Chidambaram, the son of the appellant, to avoid punitive action. The appellant, who was the Union Finance Minister at the time, was not named in the FIR.

Based on the FIR, the Directorate of Enforcement registered a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). The appellant was not named as an accused in this case either. However, fearing arrest, the appellant sought anticipatory bail, which was initially granted but later dismissed by the High Court of Delhi. The appellant was subsequently arrested in connection with the CBI case and later in the ECIR case.

Issues

The main issue before the Supreme Court was whether the appellant should be granted regular bail. The appellant argued that the High Court erred in denying him bail, especially since it had held that he was not a flight risk, had not tampered with evidence, and had not influenced witnesses. The appellant also contended that the High Court had wrongly gone into the merits of the case while deciding on the bail application.

Court’s Observations

The Supreme Court noted that the High Court had found no risk of the appellant fleeing, tampering with evidence, or influencing witnesses. However, it had still denied bail based on the gravity of the allegations against the appellant. The Court also observed that the High Court had considered allegations from an unrelated case while deciding on the bail application.

The Court further noted that the appellant had been granted regular bail by the Supreme Court in the predicate offence FIR. It also took into account the appellant’s age and fragile health, which had deteriorated during his time in custody.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court, while acknowledging the gravity of economic offences, emphasized that the liberty of an individual should not be denied unfairly. The Court held that the grant or refusal of bail should be based on well-settled principles, taking into account the facts and circumstances of each case. The Court concluded its judgment by stating that it would pass a detailed order on the matter.

The case of P. Chidambaram vs Directorate Of Enforcement is significant as it highlights the delicate balance between the gravity of economic offences and the liberty of the individual, especially in cases where the accused is not a flight risk and there is no risk of tampering with evidence or influencing witnesses.