The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to Mr. P Chidambaram in the INX Media money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate.
On November 28, a bench headed by Ms. Justice R. Banumathi had reserved judgement on the appeal filed by Mr. Chidambaram challenging the November 15 verdict of the Delhi High Court denying him bail.
The apex court had allowed the ED to submit three sets of sealed covers in the two volumes. 'The Registry is directed to receive the sealed cover and keep them in safe custody for perusal of the court, if required,' the court said.
The Solicitor General,Mr. Tushar Mehta, representing the ED, told the court that Mr. Chidambaram is extremely influential even from custody, while senior advocates Mr. Kapil Sibal and Dr. A.M. Singhvi, appearing for the former Union Minister, told the bench that the ED cannot orally prejudice the court against the grant of bail.
Mr. Sibal told the court that alleged emails, bank transactions indicating at money laundering have been said to be connected to Mr. Chidambaram, but where is the evidence to link all these with him? 'Show one piece of evidence... you cannot destroy reputations,' he contended.
Attacking the ED case against Mr. Chidambaram, the senior lawyer said that the ED should show one property, one bank account and one telephone call, which establishes Mr. Chidambaram is involved in the case, insisting that 'the entire case is nothing beyond allegations'.
On the other hand, Mr. Mehta told a three-judge bench headed by Ms. Justice Banumathi that whether in custody or not, the former Finance Minister is powerful enough to wield influence on witnesses involved in the case. 'One of the witnesses has written a letter, and the other two have requested, please do not bring us face to face with him....in fact, his presence may influence the prosecution,' he contended.
Citing the gravity of the economic offences, Mr. Mehta told the court that the entire world is facing the menace of money laundering.
Mr. Mehta told the bench, also comprising Mr. Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, that the ED probe has uncovered 12 bank accounts where proceeds of crime were deposited and the agency has also gathered the details of 12 properties, with specific addresses, which have been together tracked down in 16 countries. He also said that economic offence is a separate class of offence graver than murder, and it is a white collar crime, which has the potential to shake the faith of the common man in the establishment.