Karti Chidambaram can’t leave country without joining probe: Supreme Court

Karti Chidambaram. File photo  

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed a Madras High Court order of August 10 freezing the implementation of a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued by the Bureau of Immigration against Karti Chidambaram and urged him to "cooperate and participate" in a corruption case involving kickbacks paid by INX Media for obtaining clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and D.Y. Chandrachud emphasised that Mr. Karti, the son of former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, has to participate in the investigation by appearing before the probe officers for questioning.

"Our business is only one. You must go for the investigation. How will it be if people of this country do not respond to investigations against them?" Chief Justice Khehar asked orally.

The court said was also upto Mr. Chidambaram to decide whether he wanted to wait for the Madras HC's decision on his pending petition for quashing of the investigation.

"But our little thing is that you cannot, as of now, leave the country till you participate in the investigation. That's all," CJI Khehar observed orally.

‘Bitter experience’

To a plea by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, for Mr. Karti, that he had already booked his tickets for the U.K. on August 16, CJI Khehar replied: "We have had the bitter experience of allowing people to go abroad and they never come back... You (Karti) first show us your bonafide by going to the investigating officer".

The court pointed out that the FIR against Mr. Karti was registered on May 15. He was issued a notice on June 15 to appear before the investigating officer on June 29.

The CBI, on the very following day on June 16, had issued the LOC.

Mr. Subramanium submitted that Mr. Karti had requested the agency for a subsequent date. This was done so, and a second notice was issued on July 4. In this notice, Mr. Karti's presence was sought on July 21.

Mr. Subramaniam said it was only post July 21, almost a month after the LOC was issued, that the accused incidentally came to know of the existence of the LOC. The Madras HC had found the issuance of the LOC on the very next day after the notice was issued on June 15 as "prima facie unwarranted", Mr. Subramanium argued.

The Bench, however acknowledged the submission made by Addititional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for CBI, who said the intent and language of the LOC was not to detain or arrest Mr. Karti.

It was only a measure to ensure that he did not leave the country when the investigation into a case involving "serious offences" was going on.

"The question you have to consider here is when do you really interfere with the right of a citizen to travel... It is only when somebody is a fugitive. My client was sitting in the same courtroom as the investigating officer during the case hearing. He has his father here. He has a daughter. His family is here," Mr. Subramanium interjected strongly.

"We are not on the issue whether he is guilty or not. We are on a very small issue. Have you participated and co-operated with the investigating officer? The answer is 'no'," CJI Khehar responded orally.

"And what is wrong with an LOC on the next day? The CBI is conducting an investigation. They do not want to take the chances of a man becoming a fugitive... the LOC does not say they will arrest you. They just do not want you to travel out of the country," CJI Khehar addressed Mr. Subramanium.

The court issued notice to Mr. Karti and posted the case for Augsut 18.

The HC had also stayed the LOCs issued against C.B.N. Reddy, Ravi Visvanathan, Mohanan Rajesh and S. Bhaskararaman.

The CBI has alleged that Mr. Reddy, Mr. Visvanathan and Mr. Rajesh were Directors of Advantage Strategic Consulting, which received the kickbacks on behalf of Mr. Karti.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 10:23:59 AM |

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