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Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Age, health, bail for co-accused: What led to Chidambaram walking out of Tihar
The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to former Union finance minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media money-laundering case although it rejected one of the main arguments he advanced against a Delhi high court order that denied him bail.
Chidambaram’s main argument in Supreme Court was that the high court had declined him relief despite rejecting concerns that he was a flight risk, may tamper with evidence or influence witnesses.
The reason given by the high court for rejecting his bail plea was that economic offences, as in the present case, are “gravest offences against the society at large” and hence required to be treated differently when it comes to grant of bail.
Chidambaram’s lawyers contested this, stating that the gravity of offence can be grounds for denial of bail only in extraordinary cases where the accused is a habitual offender, child molester or terrorist.
The Supreme Court bench of justices R Banumati, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, in its Wednesday’s ruling, held that the Delhi high court was correct in considering the gravity of offence while deciding on his bail plea.
The apex court also held that economic offences would fall under the category of “grave offence”.
Despite these findings, the Supreme Court granted bail to Chidambaram. The following five factors tilted the scales in favour of the 74-year-old Rajya Sabha member:
Age and health
Chidambaram’s age and his health weighed on the minds of the Supreme Court bench.
The court, in its order, noted that as per the high court order, the Congress politician had suffered two bouts of illness during his incarceration. Further, the court also said that he had been put on antibiotics and was advised to take steroids.
Not a flight risk
The Supreme Court referred to the Delhi high court judgment which had concluded that Chidambaram was not a fight risk and there was no possibility of him tampering with the evidence or influencing witnesses. The Supreme Court found no reason to overturn the findings.
Co-accused granted bail
The apex court noted that one of the co-accused had been granted bail by the Delhi high court while another co-accused had been given interim protection from arrest.
His son Karti Chidambaram had been granted bail by the Delhi high court on March 23, 2018 and it was confirmed by the Supreme Court on August 3, 2018. Another co-accused, S. Bhaskararaman, was granted anticipatory bail by the trial court on April 4, 2018 and the order was not challenged by ED. A trial court had granted bail to co-accused, INX Media co-founder Indrani Mukerjea, on April 13, 2018 and her husband Peter Mukerjea was granted bail on May 28, 2018.
Chidambaram was available for custodial interrogation
The Court said that Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail was declined earlier and he had been available for custodial interrogation for more than 45 days.
Available for further probe
Based on the above reasons, the apex court concluded that Chidambaram would be available for further interrogation, investigation and trial and thought it fit to release him on bail.