INX media case: ED counts Chidambaram as a flight risk, issues lookout circular; Congress fumes

The Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday issued a lookout notice for P Chidambaram at airports and immigration desks moments after the Supreme Court refused to grant the former Union minister a relief from arrest in the INX Media case.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice NV Ramana referred the matter to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi for urgent hearing on the former minster’s anticipatory bail plea in the case.

“None of the three grounds to deny bail were made out (by the HC): there is no allegation that the petitioner is likely to flee justice; or that the petitioner is likely to influence the witnesses; or that the petitioner is likely to tamper with the evidence,” said the petition filed by Chidambaram.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed Chidambaram’s plea and said it is a case of “monumental magnitude”. Chidambaram had approached the Supreme Court seeking protection from arrest hours after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected in the Delhi high court. Chidambaram’s lawyers were told to go to the top court on Wednesday morning.

The INX Media case relates to irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the group for receiving Rs 305 crore overseas funds. Chidambaram was the finance minister at that time.

It is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and ED. CBI had registered an FIR on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the FIPB clearance, ED lodged a money laundering case a year later.

On Tuesday, a few hours after the Delhi High Court had rejected Chidambaram’s plea for an anticipatory bail in the INX Media case, the CBI issued a notice asking him to appear before the investigation officer “within two hours”.

The CBI notice has asked Chidambaram to appear before R Parthasarthy, CBI deputy SP, who is investigating the case to record his statement under Section 161 of the CrPC. The notice, reportedly, has also been sent to his email ID.

A team of CBI officers visited his Jor Bagh residence but left after confirming that the former minister was not present there. They came back on Wednesday morning.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who tweeted in Chidambaram’s support, lashed out at the government for hunting down the veteran politician. “An extremely qualified and respected member of the Rajya Sabha, @PChidambaram_IN ji has served our nation with loyalty for decades including as Finance Minister & Home Minister,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said in a two-part tweet.

The Congress also launched a sharp attack at the ruling BJP, underscoring that the party was standing by Chidambaram’s quest for truth. “A govt that persecutes its citizens for speaking truth to power is only reiterating its own cowardly nature,” the party tweeted.