Chidambaram sent to Tihar’s jail no 7

Sep 5, 2019
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to grant anticipatory bail to senior Congress leader and former Union home minister P Chidambaram in an Enforcement Directorate case involving INX Media, following which he was sent to Tihar jail.

In a 57-page order, a bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi said: “This is not a fit case for grant of anticipatory bail. The investigating agency has to be given enough freedom to probe.”

Chidambaram has been lodged in jail number-7 which is for economic offenders in the capital’s Tihar Jail.Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram was also lodged in the same jail earlier.

The court has allowed the former Union minister to take his medicines along with him. Since Chidambaram enjoys Z-category security, the court also allowed him to be kept in a separate cell with adequate arrangements for his security.

The court here sent Chidambaram to 14 days’ judicial custody in the INX Media case.

The senior Congress leader, who was arrested by the CBI in the case last month and had undergone interrogation, will be lodged in Tihar Jail till September 19.

With a high-profile undertrial like Chidambaram set to be lodged in the prison, one would expect special arrangements to be made.

On being asked about any specific preparations, Director General of Prisons, Sandeep Goyal told IANS that “A jail is a jail. We only follow the court’s orders. No one lodged in a jail is special.”

He said Chidambaram would be treated like a normal prisoner.

Chidambaram is facing trial for financial crimes and is also aged above 60 but Goyal only said “We will do what the jail manual says,” as he brushed aside any security concerns.

Jail number-7 houses 600-700 inmates, the majority of whom are jailed for crimes against women though the block has traditionally been used to house economic offenders.

Earlier, the apex court , making an observation on the economic offences, said these offences are serious in nature and anticipatory bail has to be an exception when the investigation is ongoing in such cases.

The court expressed apprehension that the accused if given bail may tamper with the evidence and destroy the money trial.

“Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, in our view, grant of anticipatory bail to the appellant will hamper the investigation and this is not a fit case for exercise of discretion to grant anticipatory bail to the appellant,” said the court while rejecting Chidambaram’s bail plea.

The court observed that the grant of anticipatory bail at this stage would hamper the investigation, and therefore the accused may move regular bail before an appropriate court.

Replying to Chidambaram’s lawyers’ contention contesting the submission of documents in sealed covers in the court, the judge said that the court can peruse the documents in sealed covers to consider bail etc, “but won’t do this on this case so as not to prejudice the case of the accused”.

Though, the court also noted that the right to anticipatory bail cannot be a subject matter of fundamental right under Article 32.

The court observed that in a case of money-laundering where it involves many stages of “placement”, “layering i.e. funds moved to other institutions to conceal origin” and “interrogation i.e. funds used to acquire various assets”, it requires systematic and analysed investigation which would be of great advantage.

The court attributed that the success in such interrogation would be elusive if the accused knows that he is protected by a pre-arrest bail order.

The Enforcement Directorate claimed it has specific inputs from various sources, including overseas banks, and the department has received some response on the Letter Rogatory issued. Therefore, the investigating agency has to be given sufficient freedom in the process of investigation.

The apex court noted that it does not endorse the approach of the Delhi High Court judge in extracting the note produced by the department, and it also do not find any ground warranting interference with the High Court order.

The court noted that the grant of anticipatory bail at the stage of investigation may frustrate the investigating agency in interrogating the accused and in collecting the useful information and also the materials which might have been concealed.

“Economic offence is committed with deliberate design with an eye on personal profit regardless of the consequence to the community,” said the court.

Pre-arrest bail is to strike a balance between the individual’s right to personal freedom and the right of the investigating agency to interrogate the accused as to the material so far collected and to collect more information which may lead to recovery of relevant information.