New Delhi, Mar 13 (PTI) Karti Chidambaram’s chartered accountant S Bhaskararaman was today granted bail in the INX Media money laundering case by a special court, which said there were no specific allegation against him except that he aided former union minister P Chidambaram’s son in committing the crime.
Special Judge Sunil Rana, while granting the relief to Bhaskararaman, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on February 16 from a five-star hotel here, observed that the “personal liberty is of precious value” and “bail cannot be withheld as a punishment”.
“Personal liberty is of precious value as per our Constitution and a person should be presumed to be innocent till he is proved guilty after facing trial and grant of bail is a rule and refusal of bail is an exception. Object of bail is to secure attendance of accused in the trial and bail cannot be withheld as a punishment,” the judge said.
The court directed Bhaskararaman to furnish a personal bond of Rs two lakh and one surety of like amount and imposed conditions on the bail, including not to leave the country without permission and not to threaten any person acquainted with the facts of the case.
It also asked the chartered accountant to cooperate in the investigation whenever required by the probe agency and surrender his passport to the investigating officer.
“There is no specific allegation against the applicant except that he aided and assisted the main accused Karti P Chidambaram in commission of crime.
“Correctness or otherwise of the allegation as to whether accused had possessed proceeds of crime or in what manner the accused was connected with the same can only be looked into during the course of the trial,” the bench said.
Bhaskararaman had sought bail on the ground that he was not required for custodial interrogation and no purpose would be served by keeping him in custody. The CA was sent to jail on February 26 after his custodial interrogation by the ED.
Karti’s name had cropped up in the case relating to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board’s (FIPB) approval granted in 2007 for receipt of funds by INX Media when his father and Congress leader P Chidambaram was the finance minister during the previous UPA regime.
The court also said that the apprehension of the probe agency that accused may influence witnesses or tamper with evidence appeared to be unfounded.
“Considering the facts and circumstances of the case… I am of the view that there is no hint or allegation that the applicant S Bhaskararaman is at a flight risk, nor is there any material to suggest that he will tamper with the evidence. Therefore he is no more required to be kept in judicial custody. In my opinion he is entitled to bail with stringent conditions,” the judge said in his order.
The court also observed that except the cases involving punishment of death or imprisonment for life, judicial discretion should always be exercised by the court in favour of granting bail and unless there are exceptional circumstances.
“There is no classification of the offences for grant of bail and there is no justification for classifying offences into different categories such as economic offence for refusal of grant of bail. Bail invariably be not refused simply because it involves serious economic offence and low does not permit such discrimination,” it observed.
The ED had earlier told the court that during the course of investigation, it was revealed that Bhaskararaman had been assisting Karti to manage his “ill-gotten wealth” in India and abroad.
It had alleged that INX Media had deliberately and in violation of the conditions of approval made a downstream investment of 26 per cent in the capital of INX News Pvt Ltd without the specific approval of FIPB, which included indirect foreign investment by some foreign investors, and generated Rs 305 crore foreign direct investment in INX Media Pvt Ltd against the approved foreign inflow of Rs 4.62 crore.
To wriggle out of the situation without any punitive action, INX Media entered into a criminal conspiracy with Karti, the ED had alleged.
The FIPB unit of the Finance Ministry had not only granted illegal approval but also misinformed the investigation wing of the Income Tax Department, it had alleged.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.