The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to former Finance Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram in INX Media money laundering case, registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Chidambaram has spent 106 days in jail after CBI court and Delhi High Court had refused to grant him bail earlier. The judgment was delivered by the Bench of Justices R Banumathi, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy.
Granting bail to Chidambaram, Justice AS Bopanna said, "Gravity of an offence required to be kept in mind. Gravity of an offence to be gathered from the facts and circumstances of each case." Justice Bopanna, however, added that "bail is a basic right". The top court also took a critical view of observations made by the Delhi High Court on the merits of the case. Chidambaram's counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the gravity of the situation cannot be a reason to deny bail to a person. Arguing on behalf of ED, Tushar Mehta said that economic offences need to be taken "seriously." The Supreme Court however found merits in Chidambaram's counsel arguments and granted him bail.
Granting bail to Chidambaram, Supreme Court also asked him to furnish a bail bond of Rs 2 lakh along with 2 sureties of the same amount. The Supreme Court also put a condition that Chidambaram can't leave the country without the permission of Court. The apex court also said Chidambaram should not temper with the evidence and not influence the witnesses. He should also not give press interviews or make public statements in connection with this case.
"The gravity of an offence cannot be a ground to deny bail to a person. There was neither any evidence linking Chidambaram directly or indirectly with the alleged offence nor there was any material to show he had influenced witnesses or tampered with any evidence," senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said after the judgment.
But moments after the Supreme Court's ruling, BJP leader and senior lawyer Subramanian Swamy said, "He has got bail with certain conditions. He is coming out as someone is coming out of parole. He might be sent to jail again."
A bench headed by Justice R Banumathi on November 28 had reserved judgment on the appeal filed by Chidambaram, who has challenged the November 15 verdict of the Delhi High Court denying him bail in the case.
Chidambaram was first arrested by the CBI on August 21 after the Delhi High Court had rejected his anticipatory bail plea in both CBI and ED case. He was arrested before he could have challenged Delhi High Court's order rejecting his bail anticipatory bail plea.
The ED had arrested him on October 16 in the money laundering case. The CBI registered its case on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in an 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.
Thereafter, the ED had lodged a money-laundering case.