The Supreme Court has reserved its order on former union minister P Chidambaram’s plea seeking pre-arrest bail in the INX Media case while extending the interim protection granted to him till next Thursday, September 5.
This followed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) telling the apex court on Thursday that it required his custody as money laundering is an offence against “society and nation”. Yesterday, the top court had extended Chidambaram’s interim protection from arrest for 24 hours till today. The senior Congress leader is presently in CBI custody till at least Friday. Both the CBI and the ED are conducting inquiries in the INX Media case.
Earlier, the hearings began with the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta telling the Court that giving copies of documents to the accused would be disastrous as it would enable the accused to erase all money trails. “Cases like Vijay Mallya and Mehul Choksi show that the case can be impacted with devastating results,” he said.
Giving out the reason for confronting ex-union minister P Chidambaram with evidence, Mehta, who was appearing for the ED told the apex court during the hearing in INX Media case the accused may thereafter erase money trail. “If an accused at large is confronted with the evidence collected, then the agency will have exposed its evidence and witnesses, which will give a chance to the accused to tamper with evidence and erase the money trail,” he said. He added that the ED has the absolute discretion regarding what material to divulge and what to withhold in terms of evidence. If an accused is confronted with evidence at pre-anticipatory bail stage, it will destroy the full case, he said.
“The moment accused is confronted with the evidence the accused can easily erase money trails… all are shell companies, money is parked in the name of individuals and benami properties,” Mehta told the top court bench of Justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna. “Extent of revealing evidence to accused is the absolute discretion of probe agency. Confronting him with evidence in pre-anticipatory bail stage would destroy the case,” Mehta added.
He said that the “Gravity of an offence is an important factor to be considered while entertaining petitions filed for anticipatory bail,” while citing judgments to assert the fact that economic offences are very grave as held by courts in the past. “They (senior advocates representing ex-FM Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi) have argued that gravity of an offence is subjective. PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) offences may not be grave for them but the courts have consistently held that economic offences are grave in nature,” said Mehta.
He also argued how the offence in this particular case is against the economy of the country and how the court has always taken a view that economic offences are the gravest form of offences, irrespective of the punishments they prescribe.
—India Legal Bureau