SC allows Karti Chidambaram to withdraw Rs 20 Cr deposited for travelling abroad.

 The Supreme Court on Friday allowed Congress MP Karti Chidambaram to withdraw the Rs 20 crore which was deposited with the apex court registry as a condition for allowing him to travel abroad.

The apex court in January and May 2019 had granted Karti Chidambaram permission to travel to foreign countries after depositing Rs 10 crore each respectively with the registry.

When the matter came up for hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said there was no objection from the Enforcement Directorate to the plea seeking withdrawal of the amount since he has returned.

Taking note of the submission, the bench also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said Karti can withdraw the said amount since he has already returned.

The condition was imposed by the apex court after the ED had opposed his plea for travel abroad.

On May 7, the top court had allowed Karti to travel to the United Kingdom, the US, France, Germany and Spain in May and June this year.

Karti has been facing ED cases in INX media and Aircel maxis matters.

Justice Sunil Gaur, Who Rejected Chidambaram’s Bail Plea, Appointed Chairman of PMLA Tribunal

Days after he paved the way for the arrest of Former FM P Chidambaram by denying him interim bail, now-retired Delhi HC judge Justice Sunil Gaur was on Wed. appointed the chairperson of the Appellate Tribunal for Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Gaur is set to take over the post from Sept 23. He had retired as an HC judge on Aug 23, 2 days after he rejected Chidambaram’s plea for anticipatory bail & said called him the “kingpin or key conspirator” in the INX Media case. The former HC judge also said that granting bail to Chidambaram would convey a wrong message to the society.

Earlier, he had also passed an order clearing the decks for prosecution of top Congress leaders, including Sonia & Rahul Gandhi, in the National Herald case. Justice Gaur was elevated to the HC in Apr 2008. He was designated as a permanent judge on Apr 11, 2012.

Gaur started his career at the Punjab & Haryana HC in 1984 & joined the Delhi Higher Judicial Service in 1995.

During his tenure, he heard several other high profile cases. Last week, he had also denied anticipatory bail to businessman Ratul Puri, nephew of senior Congress leader & MP CM Kamal Nath, in the AgustaWestland chopper scam.

Supreme Court extends protection from arrest to Chidambaram till Thursday in INX Media money laundering case

The Supreme Court Wednesday extended till tomorrow the interim protection from arrest granted to former finance minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

A bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna heard arguments advanced by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who said that Chidambaram was trying to play the “victim card” and prevent ED from exercising its right to arrest him in the case.

“This is not a witch hunt as alleged by them. We have material to show that it is a serious case of money laundering. We have collected cogent materials in the case,” Mehta told the bench, which would continue hearing arguments in the case on Thursday.

The apex court is hearing a plea filed by Chidambaram who has challenged the August 20 verdict of the Delhi High Court denying him anticipatory bail in the INX Media corruption and money laundering cases lodged by the CBI and the ED.

“A ghost is sought to be created by playing the victim card,” Mehta said while opposing grant of anticipatory bail to Chidambaram.

CBI had lodged an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in FIPB clearance granted to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister.

Thereafter, ED lodged a money laundering case.

Chidambaram was Union minister for finance as also home during the UPA-I and UPA-II government from 2004 to 2014.

He had said in the apex court on Tuesday that the ED be asked to produce transcripts of his questioning in the case and claimed that the probe agency wanted his arrest just to “humiliate” him.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chidambaram, had told the court that he was quizzed by the agency on three dates in 2018 and 2019 and transcripts of questioning would clear the air on whether he was evasive in his replies, as alleged by it while seeking his custodial interrogation.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, also appearing for Chidambaram, had said the former minister was not evasive during his questioning and has fully co-operated in the probe.

“You (ED) want to arrest me, but for what reason? The answer is — to humiliate me, to humiliate me and to humiliate me, minute by minute and hour by hour,” Singhvi had said.

He argued that ED had lodged the case in 2017 whereas the offences alleged are of the period 2007-2008.

Referring to the high court verdict which used “gravity of offence” to deny anticipatory bail to Chidambaram, Singhvi said ‘gravity’ is a subjective word and what is grave for someone may not be grave for others.

The best test of gravity of an offence is period of sentence prescribed for it and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) considers sentence of over seven year, including death or life term, as grave and punishment of up to seven year as less grave, he told the top court.

Offences alleged against Chidambaram entail a maximum punishment of up to seven years, he added.

Singhvi said Chidambaram was not a ‘flight risk’ that he may abscond and non co-operation does not mean that a person has to give answer which the probe agencies want, and that there was no question of tampering of any evidence.

High Court protects Chidambaram from arrest till July 3: INX Media case

The Delhi High Court today granted former Union minister P Chidambaram interim protection from arrest till July 3 in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s INX Media corruption case .

Justice A K Pathak asked Chidambaram to join and cooperate in the questioning session as and when called by the CBI.

The court also sought the investigating agency’s response on the Congress leader’s anticipatory bail plea and listed the matter for further hearing on July 3.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, opposed the anticipatory bail plea saying he was merely called for questioning.

Chidambaram had yesterday rushed to a trial court for protection from arrest in Aircel-Maxis case before approaching the Delhi High Court in connection with the INX Media case, in which he has been asked by probe agencies to join investigations.

Chidambaram’s role has come under the scanner of investigating agencies in the Aircel-Maxis deal of Rs 3,500 crore and INX Media case involving Rs 305 crore. It was during his tenure as finance minister in the UPA-1 regime that FIPB clearance was granted to the two ventures in which alleged irregularities have been found.

In the INX Media case, the CBI had registered an FIR on May 15 last year against alleged irregularities in the FIPB clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when Chidambaram was finance minister.

Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram was also arrested in the matter for allegedly receiving funds to the tune of Rs 10 lakh in the case.

The other accused in the case include then INX Media Director Indrani Mukerjea and then INX News Director Peter Mukerjea.

Supreme Court asks CBI if it intends to examine Chidambaram

The Supreme Court Friday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) if it proposed to examine former finance minister P. Chidambaram on the clearance given to the Aircel-Maxis deal over which a charge sheet had been filed in August.

A bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice S.A. Bobde asked senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, to apprise the court on this count at the next hearing, fixed for Oct 16.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramaniam Swamy told the court that while charge sheet on deal had already been filed, there seemed to be no progress on CBI’s part to seek clarifications on the nod given by Chidambram following the recommendation by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).

In August, the CBI had filed the charge sheet against former communications minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran, T Ananda Krishnan and others in the Aircel-Maxis deal.

The CBI in its charge sheet in Aircel-Maxis deal had told the special court trying 2G cases that Mauritius-based subsidiary of Maxis, had sought approval for $800 million for which Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) was competent to do so.

“However, the approval was granted by the then finance minister. Further investigation is being carried out into the circumstances of the said FIPB approval granted by the then finance minister. The related issues are also being investigated,” the charge sheet had said.

Soon after the filing of the charge sheet, Chidambram in a statement had said: “In the Aircel-Maxis case, the FIPB sought the approval of the finance minister in accordance with the rules. The case was submitted through the additional secretary and secretary, DEA (Department of Economic Affairs). Both of them recommended the case for approval. Approval was granted by me, as finance minister, in the normal course.”

The original owner of the Aircel C. Sivasankaran had alleged that he was coerced to sell Aircel to Maxis, owned by T. Ananda Krishnan in 2006, as the telecom company was denied licences. The CBI has alleged quid pro quo saying that in return the Malaysian company invested Rs. 650 crores in Sun TV owned by the Maran family.

The court adjourned the hearing directing the listing of the matter Oct 16 as Special Public Prosecutor Anand Grover who was to address the court on several issues connected with the 2G case said he would not be able to do so in one go Friday.

The court said that it would like to hear the views of the special public prosecutor on the issues before the court in one go only and not in parts.

Grover was appointed special public prosecutor to lead CBI cases in 2G scam cases before the special court after incumbent U.U.Lalit was appointed judge of the apex court.

Supreme Court dismisses Swamy’s petition against Chidambaram

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy’s petition has been dismissed by the Supreme Court for review of its verdict clearing Finance Minister P Chidambaram of all charges in the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

The apex court said the decision does not “warrant any reconsideration.”

“We have perused the averments contained in the review petition and have gone through the record of Special Leave Petition and are satisfied that order dated August 24, 2012 does not suffer from any error apparent which may be warranted its reconsideration.

“The review petition is accordingly dismissed,” a bench of justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan said.

Swamy had sought review of the August 24 decision by which his plea for CBI inquiry against Chidambaram was rejected by the same bench, which had said there was no material to establish that he abused his official position as the then finance minister.

It had also said neither had Chidambaram conspired nor had he colluded with former Telecom Minister A Raja to obtain any pecuniary advantage for himself or any other persons.

Aggrieved by the order, Swamy had filed the review petition, which was dismissed by the same bench on December 4.

JPC questions CBI for showing leniency to PM and Chidambaram

The leniency shown by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Attorney-General Goolam Vahanvati, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and the former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, and its clear reluctance to investigate their roles in the 2G scam, on Tuesday prompted members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee(JPC) to call for the immediate arrest of Mr. Maran. They also asked for interrogation of both the AG and Mr. Chidambaram.

 The CBI, under the Supreme Court’s directions, has been tasked with investigating the spectrum scam, starting from 2001. CBI Director A.P. Singh admitted to the JPC that a genuine probe, in spite of the agency filing an FIR on October 21, 2009, was launched only after the court’s December 16, 2010 directions. Following this, the CBI arrested ex-Telecom Minister A. Raja in February 2011 and filed its charge sheets in April and October.

 But, blowing a hole in the investigation, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta questioned why the CBI, in its April 2, 2011 charge sheet, said no discussion took place between Mr. Raja and Mr. Vahanvati when the AG himself, in response to an RTI application, had admitted to a meeting with Mr. Raja and Pranab Mukherjee in the first week of December. The CBI’s response was that it had no evidence of the meeting at the time of its filing the charge sheet.

 Asked why the CBI believed that Mr. Vahanvati was innocent despite his having approved the January 10, 2008 press release which included an illegal advancement of the cut-off date, and why the AG had not been questioned over manipulation of the first come, first served criterion, which was also included in the same press release, the CBI insisted that it was not the AG who gave the order.

 Questioned by Mr. Dasgupta about the clean chit given to Mr. Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister during the period the 2G scam occurred, the CBI said this was because his views were similar to those expressed by the then Finance Secretary, D. Subbarao, who had opposed Mr. Raja’s spectrum allocation methodology. Based on Dr. Subbarao’s statement to the CBI, the agency advised the court that there was no need to interrogate Mr Chidambaram.

 Reminding the CBI that the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC) Act defines corruption as abuse of office, irrespective of financial gain, by a public servant to cause an unlawful gain to any individual, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha asked why the CBI gave the Prime Minister a clean chit on grounds that he was “misled” by Mr. Raja.

 Mr. Sinha highlighted the detailed letters written by Mr. Raja to the Prime Minister apprising him of his actions, which the Prime Minister acknowledged (he even advised Mr. Raja to hold a press conference to clear media misunderstandings), as well as the detailed PMO notings on spectrum pricing. He asked why the CBI believed that the Prime Minister was so naive as to quietly withdraw all his “concerns” about Mr. Raja’s spectrum pricing methodology just on a single written assurance by the latter that he was following policy. To this, the CBI maintained that it had not seen the PMO files.

 The CBI’s status report on its 2G investigation, which was presented to the JPC members, also raised eyebrows. Members questioned why the CBI, following the CAG report and the Supreme Court’s directions, had arrested and jailed Mr. Raja based on suspicion — that too much before filing charge sheets — while it had refused to arrest Mr. Maran even after finding him guilty in its report. The CBI failed to give a satisfactory response to this query.

 The CBI also told the JPC that it had no evidence against Anil Ambani and only arrested Reliance company officials were instrumental in the wrongdoing.

 They also had no answer to questions about Ratan Tata’s alleged role. Claiming that Switzerland was refusing to cooperate, it refused to commit to any delivery on finding the money trail in foreign countries. The little progress claimed by the CBI was that its revenue loss estimate has inched to Rs. 30,000 crore, which is closer to the CAG’s estimates than the Rs. 22,000 crore stated in its October 2009 FIR.

CBI shielding Chidambaram, petitioner tells Supreme court

The Supreme Court was Wednesday told that the probe into the 2G scam by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was ‘less than honest’ as it failed to examine the role of the then finance minister and present Home Minister P. Chidambaram over the fixing of spectrum price.

 

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) said: ‘The CBI was not doing a fair and impartial investigation irrespective of the status of the person sought to be investigated as was directed by the apex court order of Dec 16, 2010.’

The petitioner sought the appointment of experts for monitoring and supervising investigations on a day-to-day basis.

 

The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly was told that ‘the role of Chidambaram has not been examined by the CBI where as a finance ministry note made it absolutely clear that the allocation of 2G licence along with spectrum in 2008 at 2001 price was jointly decided by former telecom minister A. Raja and Chidambaram’.

 

The petitioner was referring to the office memorandum sent by finance ministry Deputy Director P.G.S. Rao March 26, to Joint Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Vini Mahajan.

 

Appearing for the CPIL, counsel Prashant Bhushan said that ever since Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy made a plea seeking a CBI investigation against Chidambaram, the investigating agency had been saying the probe was already over and the apex court should stop monitoring it.

 

Seeking supervision of investigations on a day-to-day basis, Bhushan said: ‘If this is not done, then this case might suffer the same fate as others where the accused were acquitted due to slipshod investigations and weak charge sheets by the CBI, or like the recent cash-for-votes scandal where the real beneficiaries so far appear to have gotten away.’

 

Referring to the apex court direction in the black money case, Bhushan told the court that three independent experts could monitor and supervise CBI’s investigations and assist the court.

 

The court was told that when Chidambaram along with Raja decided on the price of 2G spectrum he was aware of the market price of the same because as the finance minister he had cleared the proposal for infusing foreign equity into the companies that got 2G licences.

 

Bhushan told the court that Raja took the opinion of the then solicitor general and present Attorney General G. Vahanvati at every step before the issuance of licences.

 

Justice Singhvi observed that lawyers could not be hauled up for giving professional opinion. If this becomes a situation then no lawyer would give his opinion, the court said.

 

Bhushan told the court that while the CBI had booked the senior executives of the telecom companies involved in the 2G scam, it had not touched the owners of these companies.

The hearing would continue Thursday when Venugopal would reply to the CPIL plea

Swamy petition wants Chidambaram named co-accused in 2G case

Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy Thursday moved a fresh application before a special trial court seeking directions to make  a co-accused in the second generation (2G) spectrum allocation case.

The petition before the special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), presided over by Judge O.P. Saini, also wanted Chidambaram’s testimony to be recorded afresh.

Swamy said subsequent to a statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in parliament it was a known fact that former telecom minister A. Raja alone was not responsible for allocating spectrum.

It was a cabinet decision and Chidambaram, as finance minister then, was part of it.

“Hence, as of now, I moved a fresh plea for summoning witnesses including myself and to make Chidambram co-accused in the scam,” Swamy said in an application before the court.

The application was moved under the provision for summoning or recalling of a witness.

Swamy had earlier told the court that the chargesheets field by the CBI did not cover the role of Chidambaram who “jointly took important decisions” on allocation of radio waves.

He had also urged the court that he be appointed Special Public Prosecutor to conduct his case himself.

Supreme Court relief for Chidambaram on Ramdev crackdown

In an apparent relief to union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the Supreme Court on Monday declined to issue notice to him on a plea that he sanctioned the police crackdown on yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his supporters post midnight June 4.

An apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Swanter Kumar, while declining to entertain the plea by Baba Ramdev, said that the court was not inclined to broaden the focus of the inquiry and wanted it to be limited to the post-midnight police action.

The court said that its concern was to know what were the circumstances that led to the police action and ensuring that such incidents of police lathicharge on innocent, sleeping citizens are not repeated.

The court will August 5 view the two-hour footage of the police crackdown.