Karti Chidambaram moves SC against CBI in Aircel-Maxis case

The Asian Age.  | J Venkatesan and Pramod Kumar

India, All India

The CBI had issued summons asking him to appear today for interrogation.

Karti Chidambaram

New Delhi: Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P. Chidambaram, on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court challenging the summons issued by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for his appearance in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the Aircel-Maxis deal in 2006. The CBI had issued summons asking him to appear today for interrogation.

Refusing to appear before CBI, Karti moved the apex court, saying that the summons was issued with mala fide intention and to harass him and his family. He said in connection with the Aircel Maxis and INX media, cases, he and his father were questioned by the agency on November 19 and December 6 in 2014, respectively. Further, the trial court had already quashed the charges insofar as the accused are concerned in the Aircel Maxis case. While so continuing the proceedings against the petitioner was illegal.    

The petitioner submitted that the CBI and other investigative wings under the control of this present Union government, from time to time, issue malicious press releases or take coercive action driven by political vendetta in order to blatantly sensationalise and publicise this campaign against him and his family with the intent to malign their reputation.

Meanwhile, the apex court told Karti not to leave India till October 9. A three-judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Kanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud told senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for Karti, that the court would consider the plea to quash the look out circular on October 9 and till then the LoC would remain in force.

Earlier, additional solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, maintained that Karti Chidambaram went abroad only for the purpose of closing his bank accounts and transferred the amounts to other accounts.

The ASG told the court that the CBI wanted to submit the progress of investigation in a sealed cover pointing out to Karti Chidambaram’s foreign account transactions and incriminating documents relating to the probe done so far as well as relating to seizure of crores of rupees. “What he did abroad is part of this sealed cover,” he said.  

Mr. Kapil Sibal opposed the sealed cover information contending that it has nothing to do with LoC. He said the LoC was unnecessary as his client had cooperated with the investigation and he returned to India for this purpose. Mr. Sibal also took exception to the ASG describing Karti Chidambaram as an “accused”. He said till the chargesheet was filed his client was not an accused.

The CJI however, told Mr. Sibal that once an FIR is registered and the person is named in the FIR, he gets the status of an accused. Mr. Sibal said the court should not accept any information in a sealed cover unless the documents relied on by the CBI are furnished to Karti Chidambaram.

The Bench asked the ASG to assist the court whether the investigating agency could rely on information during the course of investigation without giving copies to the accused. The Bench directed the petitions to be listed for further hearing on October 9, when it would decide whether the petitions against the LoC to be sent back to the Madras High Court to be heard by a Division Bench.

The CBI registered an FIR against Mr. Karti and others on May 15, 2017 for alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to INX Media for receiving overseas funds in 2007 when Karti’s father was the Union finance minister. Mr. Karti did not appear before CBI in response to summons issued on June 15 and July 4, but instead moved the Madras High Court to quash the FIR.

On June 16 the CBI issued Look out Circular to prevent him from leaving India. On August 10, the High Court by an interim order stayed the LoC and allowed him to go abroad on August 16 and to return on August 31.  On August 10, the High Court by an interim order stayed the LoC and allowed him to go abroad on August 16 and to return on August 31.  Besides Karti, his associates CBN Reddy, Ravi Viswanathan, Mohanan Rajesh and S Bhaskararaman had also got the interim relief in the High Court. The CBI filed the present appeal in the apex court against this order to prevent Mr. Karti from going abroad.