New Delhi: The Supreme Court was categorical yesterday that Karti Chidambaram, son of Congress leader and former Union minister P. Chidambaram, would not be allowed to leave India without subjecting himself to investigation in a corruption case.
The apex court, which stayed the Madras high court order putting on hold the look out circular (LOC) issued by the Centre against Karti, repeatedly sought to know when he would make his appearance for questioning before investigating agency CBI.
“We are only on one limited issue. Has he participated and cooperated in the investigation? The answer is ‘no’,” a bench comprising Chief Justice J. S. Khehar and Justice D. Y. Chandrachud said, adding, “you (Karti) must show your bonafide.”
“They must show up to investigation by going to the investigating agency. We are not on whether he is guilty or not. We are on a very small issue. They asked you to appear for investigation and you did not appear. First, you said you are abroad, but on coming, you did not appear,” it said.
The bench, which wanted to know from senior advocate and Karti’s counsel Gopal Subramaniam when Chidmabaram’s son would report for investigation, also said there was neither any order for his arrest, nor was there any intention to arrest him, but he had kept himself away from questioning.
It also said that he was not worried about approaching the courts with a plea for anticipatory bail.
“You are not worried about your arrest. There is nothing on anticipatory bail and only you have sought quashing of the FIR. You are not worried about the arrest which an accused thinks and files for anticipatory bail. Why have you not done (that),” the bench said.
The apex court, which issued notice to Karti and four others in the case and posted the matter for hearing on August 18th, asked Subramaniam to “give a date and appear for questioning”.
Subramaniam, on his part, said he would take instructions from his client (Karti), but wanted an assurance from the apex court that there should be some protection.
However, the bench said it has had a “very bad experience” of granting liberty to “reputed people” to go abroad as they never come back and referred to some high-profile cases.
“These Malaysian people did not come back,” it said in reference to Malaysia-based persons, accused in the Aircel-Maixis case.
The bench said there was an order of the high court against which the petition has been filed and an order has to be passed.
“We will say nothing but stay the high court order,” the bench said and accordingly passed the order staying the high court’s decision to put on hold the LOC against Karti and others.
It also asked the high court to decide another plea of Karti seeking quashing of the FIR “in consonance with law”.
Before passing the order, the bench said that there was another option for Karti that he should pursue the petition for quashing the FIR and get a final order on it.
“If you succeed, it is another matter, if you do not succeed, you go for investigation. But till then don’t go abroad.
“If you succeed in quashing the plea, we will defer the investigation, but don’t go abroad. Our business is only one, you must go for investigation,” the bench observed.
Subramaniam’s argument that Karti has been present alongside CBI’s IO in the proceedings before the high court did not impress the bench which asked whether he went to the IO and said that he would join the investigation.
Additional solictor general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, mentioned the appeal in the forenoon for urgent hearing saying that the accused may leave the country if the high court, passed on August 10, was not stayed.
He said the Madras high court lacked the territorial jurisdiciton to hear the issue as the FIR was registerd at New Delhi by the CBI.
The high court stayed the LOCs issued on June 16th and July 18th, without even considering that it lacked territorial jurisdiction to entertain the petition, Mehta said.
The case lodged by CBI in Delhi is related to alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of almost Rs 305 crore in 2007 when Karti’s father was the Union finance minister.
The CBI had claimed that the FDI proposal of the media house, cleared by Chidambaram, was “fallacious”.
The FIR was registered on May 15th before the special CBI judge here and the registration of the case was followed by searches at the residences and offices of Karti and his friends on May 16th.