17 February 2020


Judgments

High Court of Delhi

P. Chidambaram Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation and Ors.

MANU/DE/2654/2019

20.08.2019

Criminal

Discretion to grant or deny pre-arrest bail cannot be exercised de hors the gravity of offence

In first application, Petitioner seeks pre-arrest bail in FIR registered under Section 120B read with Section 420 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and Sections 8 and 13 (2) read with Section 13(1) (d) of The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act), whereas in the second application, Petitioner seeks pre-arrest bail in Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) registered under the provisions of The Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).

It is submitted that, investigation by CBI is complete and there is no ground for ED to oppose the bail or to seek Petitioner's custody. It is urged that since petitioner is co-operating in investigation, therefore, there is no ground to deny bail to Petitioner.

From the material collected by the Investigating Agency, it prima facie appears that Rs 3 Crores approximately has come into the account of M/s. Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt. Ltd. (ASCPL) and other concerns during the tenure of the Petitioner as the Finance Minister. From the investigation conducted, it appeared that ASCPL and other concerns are beneficially controlled and managed by Karti P. Chidambaram. The investigation conducted reveals that, ASCPL and other concerns are not conducting any genuine and bona fide business activities.

Personal liberty of a citizen is sacrosanct, but no one is above the law. Law makers cannot be allowed to turn into law breakers with impunity, particularly in cases of this magnitude. Pre-arrest is not meant for high profile economic offenders. Tendering of charge-sheet after obtaining sanction for prosecution of Petitioner cannot dilute the gravity of the offence in question. The gravity of offence committed by Petitioner demanded denial of pre-arrest bail.

Economic offences constitute a class part and need to be visited with a different approach in matters of bail. Taking note of huge magnitude of conspiracy angle qua Petitioner, it would be premature to jump to a conclusion that, provisions of PMLA would not apply to the instant case, as it cannot be said that the amount involved is below Rs 30 Lakhs. Rather, money laundering involved in this INX Media Scam and Aircel Maxis deal scandal is of Rs 3,500 Crores.

Not naming of Petitioner in FIR, is inconsequential, as Petitioner has been projected to be the main accused on whose dictates the offence of this magnitude could be committed. Petitioner cannot claim parity with co-accused who are on bail. It cannot be forgotten that, Petitioner was the Finance Minister at the relevant time and he had given FDI clearances to INX Media Group for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 Crores. The alleged irregularities committed by Petitioner makes out a case for refusing pre-arrest bail to Petitioner. Simply because Petitioner is a sitting member of Parliament, would not justify grant of pre-arrest bail to petitioner in this sensitive case.

Offenders must be exposed, no matter what their status is. Petitioner is member of legal fraternity too. But this by itself does not and cannot justify concession of pre-arrest bail to him. Discretion to grant or deny pre-arrest bail cannot be exercised de hors the gravity of offence. In the instant case, in view of the enormous material placed on record in respect of distinguished entities, various transactions etc, this Court unhesitatingly opines that bail plea of Petitioner is not acceptable.

The gravity of the offence committed in the instant case amply justifies denial of pre-arrest bail to Petitioner. Grant of pre-arrest bail in a serious matter like instant one to an accused simply on the ground that investigation is complete and charge sheet has been filed, would defeat the ends of justice. In bail matters, gravity of the offence is of utmost consideration which weighs with the Court in granting or refusing pre-arrest bail or regular bail. Upon considering the case set up against Petitioner in its entirety, this Court is of prima facie opinion that, it is not a fit case for grant of pre-arrest bail to Petitioner. Consequentially, both applications are accordingly disposed off.

Tags : Pre-arrest bail Grant Offence Seriousness

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