Karti invokes seven-judge Constitution Bench verdict against LOC

Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram arrives at CBI Headquarters in connection with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval case, in New Delhi on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: V. Sudershan

Karti Chidambaram on Friday challenged the Look Out Circular (LOC) issued by the government to prevent him from travelling abroad as an unfair impediment on his fundamental right to personal liberty.

Karti is under CBI scanner in connection with kickbacks paid by INX Media for clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) while his father P. Chidambaram was Finance Minister.

Arguing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Karti, represented by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, described the LOC as a fetter on his fundamental right to free movement.

The LOC was issued on June 16. The Madras HC had stayed the LOC. But the Supreme Court subsequently lifted the stay order.

In the previous hearing on August 18, a Bench led by then Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, who retired on August 27, said the court would review the LOC on September 1, provided Karti cooperate with the probe. Following this, CBI questioned Karti on two separate occasions on August 23 and 28.

The new Bench led by Chief Justice Misra, who succeeded Justice Khehar on August 28, did not touch upon the issue of review of the LOC, thus letting it to continue to operate.

Mr. Subramanium submitted the LOC against Karti was a “concept that has just emerged”. He questioned the legality of subjecting Karti to an LOC when there was no non-bailable warrant issued against him.

Mr. Subramanium said the LOC should be examined in the light of the Maneka Gandhi judgment delivered by a seven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in 1978. The Maneka Gandhi verdict has held that any law curtailing personal liberty protected under Article 21 should be “just, fair and reasonable”.

“The mere prescription of some kind of procedure cannot ever meet the mandate of Article 21. The procedure prescribed by law has to be fair, just and reasonable, not fanciful, oppressive or arbitrary,” Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, one of the seven judges on the Maneka Gandhi Bench, had written in his judgment.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who is incidentally part of the Bench hearing Karti's case, is his son.

The recent nine-judge Bench which upheld the fundamental right to privacy had re-inforced the Maneka Gandhi judgment's conclusion that personal liberty included the right of a person to travel abroad.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for CBI, countered that the investigation so far has turned up material against Karti to show “jugglery of bank accounts, existence of properties and companies abroad”. Mr. Mehta handed over a sealed cover envelope containing the investigation documents to the court for its perusal.

The court granted CBI time till September 11 to file its rejoinder to an affidavit filed by Karti in the case.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 5:21:55 AM |

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