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'Happy to breath air of freedom': Chidambaram walks out of Tihar after 106 days

Former Union Minister P Chidambaram is a free bird, at least for now. He walked out of Tihar jail Wednesday night after securing bail in the INX-Media corruption case. The Congress stalwart met party president Sonia Gandhi and said that he would address a press conference on Thursday.

India TV News Desk India TV News Desk
New Delhi Updated on: December 04, 2019 23:33 IST
Chidambaram walks out of Tihar jail; Karti, scores of supporters welcome him
Image Source : PTI

Chidambaram walks out of Tihar jail; Karti, scores of supporters welcome him

Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram is a free bird, at least for now. After 105 days in custody, Chidambaram walked out of Tihar Jail Wednesday night hours after Supreme Court granted him bail in a money laundering case linked to the INX media. Chidambaram was given a rapturous welcome by scores of Congress supporters gathered outside the jail. His son Karti was on hand to receive his father. 

Soon after stepping out of jail, the Congress stalwart met his party president Sonia Gandhi. Speaking to reporters after meeting Gandhi, Chidambaram said, "I am happy that Supreme Court has passed an order granting bail and I am happy that I have stepped out and breathing the air of freedom after 106 days."

Chidambaram also said that he would address a press conference on Thursday. 

Dressed in his trademark long-sleeved white shirt and dhoti, the former union minister, whose custody entered the 106th day on Wednesday with most of the time spent behind bars, was surrounded by a posse of newsmen and photographers before he was taken in a car to his Jor Bagh home.

Asked to comment on his release, a calm and composed Chidambaram, a Rajya Sabha MP, said he cannot comment on the case and will obey the Supreme Court order but hastened to forcefully add that not a single charge has been framed against him.

"The fact is that after 106 days of pre-trial incarceration there is not a single charge framed against me as I speak now," said Chidambaram, who is expected to attend the Rajya Sabha proceedings on Thursday. The Congress leader said he will talk more on Thursday.

Chidambaram has been in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI), the Enforcement Directorate(ED) and in Tihar jail since his dramatic arrest by the CBI sleuths from his Jor Bagh home in the national capital on the night of August 21. While the CBi is probing the corruption case linked to the INX Media, the ED is investigating the money laundering case.

"I am very happy that my father is coming home. It has been a long wait, it has been an unwanted incarceration. I am very grateful that the Supreme Court has given him bail," Karti told reporters.

The relief for Chidambaram triggered a political slugfest with the Congress welcoming it as truth prevailing at last and that his incarceration was "vengeful and vindictive" while the BJP derided the party for "celebrating corruption". The BJP also sarcastically said finally Chidambaram too joins the long list of “OOBC(Out On Bail Club)”

Allowing Chidambaram's plea for bail, the apex court also ordered that he can't leave the country without its permission and should neither try to influence witnesses nor tamper with evidence.

Making clear its order would not be construed to be the findings on merits of the case, the court said his alleged complicity would be examined during the trial.

Setting aside the Delhi High Court's November 15 verdict denying the former union minister bail, a three-judge bench, headed by Justice R Banumathi, granted the relief to him on a personal bond of Rs 2 lakh with two sureties of the like amount.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, restrained Chidambaram from giving any press interview or making any statements with regard to the case.

The top court, which observed that economic offences are grave in nature, said "grant of bail is rule and refusal is exception".

It said the ED's claim that he can tamper with evidence cannot be accepted on "face value" as he is neither in political power nor holds any post in the government.

Chidambaram would have to join further investigations if asked by the probe agency, it added.

Chidambaram's wife Nalini, who is a senior lawyer, said she was happy that he got the bail.

The CBI registered its case on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambaram's tenure as finance minister. The ED lodged a money laundering case after that.
News that its senior leader would finally be returning home led to relief in the Congress camp but also triggered a political row with the BJP.

The apex court said it was initially not inclined to open the sealed cover material placed before it by the ED. But since the high court had perused the material, it was imperative for the top court to go through the documents, it added.

After pronouncing the verdict, the court directed its registry to return the sealed cover material back to the ED.

(With PTI inputs)

Also Read: SC restrains Chidambaram from giving press interviews, making public comments

Also Read: Released after 105 days, Chidambaram to attend Parliament

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