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Congress leader P Chidambaram walks out of Tihar jail

Several Congress workers greeted the former Union minister after he stepped out of the prison.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 05, 2019, 10.42 AM IST
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Former FM  P Chidambaram walks out of Tihar Jail after 106 days
Former FM P Chidambaram walks out of Tihar Jail after 106 days
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to form e r f i n a n c e m i n i s t e r P Chidambaram in the money laundering case filed against him by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the INX Media deal, setting the stage for his release from jail after over 100 days. The only condition the top court imposed on him, apart from the usual bail conditions, was a gag order asking him not to talk of this case or influence any of his coaccused which might prejudice the trial in the case.

Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram is the other accused in the case. The FIPB members who cleared the INX deal have also been named as accused in the case.

Chidambaram would also have to furnish a bail bond of `2 lakh and two sureties of the like amount, surrender his passport and also cooperate in the investigations, the bench, led by Justice R Banumathi, said.

The top court had earlier granted him bail in the CBI case but then the ED had sought his custodial interrogation on the charge of money laundering. Chidambaram had challenged this as ‘pre-trial punishment’ which made a mockery of the basic principle of presumption of innocence of a citizen.

Today, the same bench, also comprising Justices Hrishikesh Mukherjee and AS Bopanna, ordered his release in the ED case setting aside the Delhi High Court’s November 15, 2019, order denying him bail. The high court had denied him bail on the grounds that it was a very serious economic offence while rejecting the ED claim that he was influential and could tamper with evidence and witnesses.

“… the appellant (Chidambaram) is not in political power nor is he holding any post in the government of the day so as to be in a position to interfere. In that view, such allegation cannot be accepted on its face value,” it said.

The bench also ruled that he cannot be held responsible for any conduct of witnesses who are not prepared to confront him, especially when there was nothing to show that he had threatened them.

It quoted earlier rulings to observe that grant of bail was the rule and refusal was the exception so as to ensure that the accused has the opportunity of securing a fair trial.

Gravity of the offence is a factor which is in addition to the triple test, or the tripod test, that would be normally applied, it said. But even if the allegation is one of committing a grave economic offence, it is not a rule that bail should be denied in every case.

The bench said though it generally refrains from looking at sealed cover material, in this case it had looked at it to see if the high court had been correct in denying him bail.

Most of the allegations in it was against coaccused Karti regarding opening shell companies and purchasing benami properties in the name of relatives at various places.

All these would have to be established in trial, the bench said. For now, it recorded the fact that Chidambaram had suffered two bouts of illness in jail and had been advised antibiotics and steroids.

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