While Congress including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi have dubbed as political vendetta the move by the CBI and ED to arrest former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media case, their staunch ally and DMK president M K Stalin in a muted reaction has said he will face the legally.
It is an indirect reference to Chidambaram going underground after the Delhi High Court not only rejected his pre-arrest bail plea but also dismissed as “preposterous” the charge that it is a case of political vendetta.
Talking to reporters at party headquarters Arivalayam after announcing that 14 parties would take part in the New Delhi Jantar Mantar rally to be led by the DMK on Aug 22 to press for the immediate release of detained Kashmiri leaders, Stalin said in the move by the CBI and the ED to arrest Chidambaram was an act of political vendetta.
At the same time, he said said: ”Chidambaram is an ace lawyer and he will face the case legally”. When DMK leaders A Raja and Kanimozhi were implicated in the 2G scam during the UPA rule, they spent a year in jail, refusing to seek bail.
Chidambaram went underground immediately after the Delhi High Court rejected his anticipatory bail application on Tuesday. His car driver has told the ED and CBI that he got off on the way home. The two agencies have issued lookout notice against Chidambaram and alerted all airports.
Taking the Congress line as articulated by Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president and Chidambaram protege K S Alagiri said in Chennai that the CBI was trying to malign his name by making it appear as if he was evading arrest though it knew he was in the Supreme Court .
Chidambaram has gone to the apex court in appeal against Delhi Court order rejecting his pre-arrest bail plea.
State BJP president Tamilisai Soundarajan has said it does not befit a man of stature like Chidambaram to flee from justice. In a more caustic comment, BJP national secretary H Raja , has quoted the agencies to say that Chidambaram has been dodging interrogation and dragging the case for so long. Raja contested unsuccessfully against Karti Chidambaram from Sivaganga in the April Lok Sabha elections
Obviously quoting the judgment of the Delhi High Court, Raja, who is also a lawyer has said ”all are equal before the law’.
Delhi High Court judge Mani Kaur who reserved judgment on Chidambaram's pre-arrest bail plea seven months ago, gave his verdict 72 hours before he is due to retire.
He has said:”It is a classic case of money laundering. It is preposterous to say that the prosecution of the petitioner is baseless, politically motivated and an act of vendetta”.
The judge has said “the facts of the case reveal he was the kingpin” He has also noted that Chidambaram was Finance Minister in 2007 when he got FIPB clearance for INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 205 crore.
In his 24-page order, the judge has said:”Simply because he is a sitting member of Parliament will not justify grant of pre-arrest bail. Law enforcing agencies cannot be made ineffective by putting legal obstacles”
He has further said “economic crimes of such mammoth scale are planned and executed".Granting bail in such cases” will send a wrong message to the society” that some men are above the law.
The FIPB clearance was got by Chidambaram when it should have gone to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, in 2007 when UPA was in power. The CBI registered a case only on May 15, 2017, and the ED registered a money laundering case only last year.
Karti Chidambaram was arrested in the case in February last year and he is now on bail.
Former Tamil Manila Congress member of Rajya Sabha Gnanadesikan, who is also a senior advocate, has called as unwarranted the comment by the judge that Chidambaram is the kingpin. “ Whether Chidambaram was the kingpin or not is something that has to be determined during trial and not at the stage of hearing a pre-arrest bail application,he has said.
Gnanadeskan has also pointed out Chidambaram’s name did not figure in the FIR registered by the CBI.
Chidambaram is expected to surface if and when he gets bail in the Supreme Court. He is very likely to get the relief, maybe with stringent conditions, as bail is the rule and jail the exception. That is arrest should be made only if there is reason to believe that an accused is likely to intimidate witnesses, tamper with evidence or flee from justice.
Karti, who went abroad with special permission from court while on bail, has since come back. This will also be a factor in favour of Chidambaram.