New Delhi: After spending 106 days incarcerated, former finance minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday walked out of Tihar Jail after the Supreme Court granted him bail in the INX Media money-laundering case.
Mr Chidambaram had already been granted bail in the corruption aspect of the same case on October 22. That was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI); the money-laundering is investigated by the Enfor-cement Directorate (ED).
A bench of Justices R. Banumathi, A. S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy said that while on bail,
Mr Chidambaram “shall not tamper with evidence or attempt to intimidate or influence witnesses”.
His age (74), his having suffered two bouts of illness and being put on anti-biotics during imprisonment, and the advise to him to take strong ster-oids, also weighed in the grant of bail.
Noting that Mr Chidambaram was not a flight risk, could not tamper with evidence nor influence witnesses, and that his alleged complicity was yet to be established, the court said that Mr Chidambaram “is entitled to be granted bail.”
The court noted that Mr Chidambaram was not in the ED’s ECIR. On the allegation that as the finance minister he aided his son Karti’s illegal transactions, the court said his complicity still has to be established.
It noted that after the rejection of anticipatory bail on September 5, Mr Chidambaram was available for custodial interrogation for more than 45 days.
Justice Bopanna pronouncing the judgment said that they were not inclined to look into the material given to them in a sealed cover by the ED, but since the single judge of the Delhi High Court had perused it and arrived at certain conclusions, “we had to look into it to satisfy ourselves”. The apex court said that single judge of the High Court was “not justified” in arriving at the findings which it did “based on the material” made available to him.
“Hence in our opinion, the findings recorded by the learned judge of the High Court based on the material in sealed cover is not justified.”
Directing the release of Chidambaram on furnishing bail bond of ` two lakhs and two sureties of like amount, the court said that he would not make any public comment or give an interview in connection with the case.
Chidambaram was directed to be available for interrogation as and when required by the ED, and should not leave the country without the nod of the Special ED court.