THE CURIOUS CASE OF CHIDAMBARAM
After spending 106 days in Tihar Jail, senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram stepped out of jail on October 4. News of the Congressman’s release after the Supreme Court granted him bail in the INX Media case was met with jubilation by his son and Lok Sabha member Karti Chidambaram and hordes of Congress activists who came to receive Chidambaram at Tihar.
As he stepped out of jail, Chidambaram said, “I can’t comment on the case. I am going to obey the Supreme Court order. But the fact is in the 106 days of pre-trail incarceration not a single charge was framed against me. I will speak all about that tomorrow.”
Chidambaram went to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi’s house immediately after his release. While the 74-year-old was in jail, he was visited by the top Congress brass, including Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former party chief Rahul Gandhi and his sister and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
There was high drama on August 21 when Chidambaram was arrested from his residence by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with a probe into granting of the Foreign Exchange Promotion Board (FIPB) approval to the INX Media, now known as 9X News, when he was finance minister.
The drama continued as he was sent to judicial custody on September 5. On October 16, while in judicial custody at Tihar Jail, he was arrested under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Though he has finally got bail, the apex court has also imposed conditions on it – Chidambaram’s passport will remain confiscated, and he will not be allowed to leave the country without permission, he will give no interviews to the press, and he will also make himself available for interrogation in the matter.
The court directed Chidambaram to deposit bail bonds of Rs 2 lakh with two sureties subject to satisfaction of the special judge hearing the case. The top court observed that the bail order will not have any effect on action against other accused in the case.
Political observers have criticised the Supreme Court for granting the bail to Chidambaram belatedly and say institutional failures are behind his incarceration. Chidambaram’s bail was earlier denied by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court had not intervened.
Critics point that the First Information Report in Chidambaram’s case came at least 10 years late and that too, after the testimony of Indrani Mukherjea, an accused who has turned approver in the case and has no credibility in the eyes of most people.
Now that a septuagenarian former finance minister has come out of jail after spending countless nights sleeping on a wooden board on criminal charges that are yet to be framed, one cannot help but ask: What for?