Sushant Singh Case: Legal Angle

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one”.

Suicide is now universally accepted as one of the leading causes of death. The reasons for the same are innumerable. Sometimes people attempt suicide not so much because they really want to die, but because they simply don’t know how to get help. Suicide attempts are not a cry for attention, but a cry for help. It becomes a way to demonstrate to the world just how much they are hurting. The harsh reality of life and the Film Industry has been brought to light by a 34 year old, popular actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, whose premature and tragic death has left the world at a loss of words.

Facts of the Issue

A well-known and legendary actor, Sushant Singh Rajput, who won countless awards and hearts, was found dead at his residence in Mumbai on 14th June, 2020. The untimely death of the actor left the entire nation tongue-tied. The death has been labeled as suicide; the investigation is still on. Just a few days preceding this awful event, Rajput’s former manager, Disha Salian was also found dead in Mumbai. She had allegedly committed suicide by jumping off the 14th floor of a building of the Jankalyan area of Mumbai’s Malad.

While the Mumbai Police has been investigating in the matter, the Bihar Police had also pitched in after the late actor’s father KK Singh filed an FIR against Rhea Chakraborty, the admitted girlfriend of the deceased Actor. The Central Government has accepted the plea of transferring the case to CBI to initiate a probe in the matter.

Few days after the incident, the Bihar Police filed an FIR against eight people including Karan Johar, Ekta Kapoor, Sanjay Leela Bhansali etc. Many of Sushant’s fans and associates within the industry have cited the ‘insider-outsider’ theory, professional pressure and bullying as some of the reasons that could have led to Sushant’s suicide.

Critical Analysis

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, representing Rhea Chakraborty, a major accused in Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case, while contending said that the Mumbai Police had the authority and supremacy over the case. The Patna police exercises zero jurisdiction to even register the case in sight. He enunciated that in accordance to the law, if an FIR is registered at the place where the offence was committed, a ZERO FIR could be lodged and get transferred to the state which exercises jurisdiction over a specific matter.”

Advocate Divan acquainted the court with the fact that there was significant delay in the filing of the FIR in Bihar, during which the Mumbai Police was competently conducting the investigation. He explicitly stated that the entire case is swamped with political objectives and agendas, coupled with the outrage generated by the media among the public. As a counter-argument to the contentions presented by Rhea Chakraborty’s Advocate, Maninder Singh, on behalf of the State pointed out that no investigation was carried out by Mumbai Police due to the absence of First Information Report and hence, it looks like the political pressure in Maharashtra became the impediment during the FIR registration.  

After hearing endless justifications and wide range of altercations, the bench headed by Justice Hrishikesh Roy reserved the order and directed the parties to file written submissions within the time period of two days regarding the transfer of case from Bihar to Mumbai.

Rhea Chakraborty, during her written submissions re-iterated the arguments advanced earlier, that Bihar police lacks jurisdiction to investigate the matter and the subsequent transfer of the case to CBI is subtle infringement of Delhi Police Establishment Act (DSPE). According to Section 6 of Delhi Police Establishment Act, consent of the State Government is an essential pre-requisite to exercise power and jurisdiction. Hence, the appropriate government for the present matter is Maharashtra Government.

The Government of Bihar incessantly opposed and denied all the allegations and proclaimed that they were acting within the power conferred upon them, as no FIR was registered in Mumbai. The Maharashtra Government and Police failed to undertake an unbiased and corruption free investigation.

Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Maharashtra Government, had contended on August 11 that allowing Bihar police to probe an incident which happened in Mumbai will be in the teeth of principles of federalism, white dictate that law and order falls within the domain of the State where the cause of action arose.

The very foundation of Criminal Procedure Code has been put in danger. If such investigation by Bihar Police is allowed, it will amount an assault on the concept of federalism. While seeking absolute dismissal of Rhea’s petition to transfer the case to CBI at the behest of Bihar police, Advocate Keshav Mohan, appearing on behalf of the Bihar Government stated that “No impediment would deserve to be allowed to come in the way of CBI to undertake and complete the investigation expeditiously”.

Legal Provisions Involved

In the middle of large public outrage associated with Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, Maharashtra Government’s incompetence to conduct meticulous inspection and Bihar administration’s demand to transfer the case to CBI, the Supreme Court considered various legal provisions to continue acting within constitutional bounds.

Sections 174, 175 and 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 provide for magisterial inquiries into cases of unnatural death. The system is in place to ensure that unexplained deaths do not remain unexplained and that the perpetrator is tried by a competent court established by law. The scope of the proceeding under section 174 is restricted.

Section 174 states “When the officer in charge of a police station or some other police officer specially empowered by the State Government in that behalf receives information that a person has committed suicide, or has been killed by another or by an animal or by machinery or by an accident, or has died under circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence, he shall immediately give intimation thereof to the nearest Executive Magistrate empowered to hold inquests, and, unless otherwise directed by any rule prescribed by the State Government, or by any general or special order of the District or Sub- Divisional Magistrate, shall proceed to the place where the body of such deceased person is, and there, in the presence of two or more respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood, shall make an investigation, and draw up a report of the apparent cause of death, describing such wounds, fractures, bruises, and other marks of injury as may be found on the body, and stating in what manner, or by what weapon or instrument (if any); such marks appear to have been inflicted.”

A police officer acquires competent authority to investigate the case when FIR has been lodged under section 154 relating to a cognizable offence or when FIR has been lodged for a cognizable offence and competent magistrate has passed the order of investigation under section 155. Section 174 is entirely different from section 154 and 155.

Conclusion

The premature death of popular star Sushant Singh Rajput has highlighted and revealed the toxic atmosphere our Bollywood Community is engulfed in. The superficial charisma that grooves with film industry is in reality too shallow to step in. Various successful suicidal attempts committed by actors and other professionals have uncovered the importance of mental health. The psychological well-being of the individual is as essential as physical well-being. The concept of depression is stigmatized in India, where people believe that mental disorders like anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, etc are nothing but psychological problems that are bizarre and hard to comprehend. We are constantly living in a state of denial, refusing the fact that mental health disorders are the worst and they really do exist. The need of the hour requires every individual to sympathize with the concerned person along with educating the masses about the importance of mental health and the help that can be sought for it.  

Author: Anjali Busar, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow

Editor: Astha Garg, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

Jawahar Bag Massacre: Legal Angle

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

A petition has been filed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court regarding the 2016 Jawahar Bagh Massacre, by the wife of the Late Sh. Mukul Dwivedi (the then Superintendent of Police, Mathura) in which he and twenty-nine others were killed. The Petitioner has demanded an expeditious investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (hereinafter referred to as “CBI”) in the present case, which has not made much progress since it was transferred to it, due to the political strings involved in the case. The incident sheds light on the nexus between politicians and gangsters, raising issues of criminal conspiracy while showcasing the apathy of the authorities towards their profession. The author will also discuss the scope of right to speedy justice enshrined under Article 21, on which the case is based.

Facts of the Issue

The facts relate to the Jawahar Bagh Massacre of 2016, in which 30 persons had died and several others injured. The Petitioner’s husband and other police officers were instructed to break the boundary wall surrounding the Bagh, one day before the eviction of Ram Briksh Yadav and his associates. The confederate was occupying the Bagh for over two years and the authorities were compelled to evict them after the High Court at Allahabad issued a contempt Notice. This resulted in the authorities making plans to evict Ram Briksh Yadav and his men, however, their strong political ties with the ruling political party resulted in the plans being stifled. The politicians exercised their influence over the District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police, Mathura, who ordered the Petitioner’s husband and other police officers to visit the site and gauge the implication of breaking the boundary walls. In the ensuing clash, the Petitioner’s husband and twenty-nine others lost their lives.

The Petitioner contends that the political ties of the accused men have hampered the investigation. She claims that even after the order of the High Court at Allahabad, to complete the investigation within two months in 2017 was made, the investigation has not been completed even after the expiry of forty months. She further alleges that the CBI has not even interrogated the politicians connected with the matter, nor has any punitive action been taken against the then District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police of Mathura. Also, she states that her husband’s killing is part of a larger criminal conspiracy. Among other allegations of foul play, the Petitioner stated that her husband had not been eating properly and was stressed as he was not allowed to take any strict action against the miscreants. On the eventful day, her husband and other police officers were not allowed to carry any arms on the pretext that some of the policemen were new recruits. 

Hence, she moved the Hon’ble Supreme Court under Article 32, demanding the completion of the investigation within two months, stating that her right to speedy justice, guaranteed by Article 21 was being violated due to the non-completion of the investigation by CBI. She has prayed that two investigative teams of CBI be formed so as to look into the incident at Jawahar Bagh and to investigate the State Government for its inaction in the said matter. 

Legal Provisions Involved

Article 21 casts a negative obligation on the State to not deprive any person of his life or personal liberty, except according to the procedure established by law. The import of Article 21 has been expanded by judicial review, to encompass the right to speedy justice. In the present case, undue delay in the investigation of the case has resulted in the violation of the said fundamental right. It is a settled principle of law that speedy trial and time bound disposal of criminal cases is not only the right of the accused, but also the right of the victim under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, as recognised by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Mangal Singh v. Kishan Singhand continuously reiterated in other cases.

Another vital aspect of Article 21 highlighted in the present case is the demand for a proper investigation by the CBI. It is trite law that no one can claim investigation by an investigative agency of one’s choice instead for proper investigation as decided by the Hon’ble Supreme Court [Sakiri Vasu v. State of UP: (2008) 2 SCC 409]. In the present case, the Petitioner has invoked the jurisdiction of the Hon’ble Apex Court, to get an impartial and proper investigation into the Jawahar Bagh Massacre, in which her husband and twenty-nine others were killed.

Critical Analysis

The case brings back the focus on the issue of delay in justice delivery in the country. A thorough and proper investigation must be carried out in the said matter so that the Petitioner can feel a sense of justice. Only when justice prevails in the true sense, can one claim that the rights conferred under Article 21 are being upheld. In the author’s opinion, a Court monitored investigation must be undertaken as grave issues of corruption, violence and support of political parties to the gangsters seem to be at play in the facts of the present case. In such a scenario, the investigation team must conduct a thorough and fair investigation.

In case, the CBI is not able to complete the investigation in two months, then the Court could grant some amount of extension. If not, the Court can initiate contempt proceedings against the Investigating Officer. This will act as a deterrent if the CBI decides to slack off during the investigation. Thus, these two measures could go a long way in ensuring a proper investigation in the Jawahar Bagh Massacre.

Conclusion

It is quite appalling to see that public authorities entrusted with the task of keeping the public safe, buckle under political influence. If not for such inaction, such an incident would have been avoided and one less petition would have been filed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Similar has been the case with the State police which also failed to conduct a proper investigation. Thus, the onus is now on the CBI to conduct a fair investigation and bring the accused persons to light. It is imperative that the people’s representatives must not use their influence to help their allies gain undue benefits. 

Author: Sreyas T. Manoj from The National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi.

Editor: Astha Garg, Junior Editor, Lexlife India

VVIP chopper scam: Legal angle

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

The Supreme Court recently dismissed the bail plea of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman of the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam. He was extradited from Dubai in 2018 and is currently locked up in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. He had sought interim bail on the grounds of the danger of contracting coronavirus while in prison. SC rejected his petition as “it did not fall under any grounds for relief”.

“We don’t find any merit in the petition filed by the petitioner in the case. We, thereby, dismiss the same,” Justice Kaul stated. Justice Kaul was part of the two-judge bench that also comprised of Justice B R Gavai.

The AgustaWestland VVIP Chopper scam is a very famous helicopter bribery scandal in India. It is a million-dollar bribery scandal and corruption case that accuses some high profile officials. This case attracted a lot of attention when a parliamentary investigation was conducted in 2013. People like Ahmed Patel, Christian Michel, and former IAF Chief S P Tyagi are being accused, thus, making this a high-profile scam.

Details about the scam

In February 2010, the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government signed a contract with AgustaWestland to purchase twelve AW101 of their helicopters for a price of Rs. 3,600 crore. These helicopters were meant for ferrying VVIPs including the President of India, the Prime Minister, and others. AgustaWestland is a UK based company that functions under its parent Italian company Finmeccanica.

In February 2013, Giuseppe Orsi, the chairman of Finmeccanica and Bruno Spagnolini, CEO of AgustaWestland were arrested on allegations of bribery and corruption by Italian authorities. This led the then UPA government to put the deal on hold.

It was alleged that the specific technical requirements of the required choppers were such adjusted that Agusta would win the bid. This included the lowering of the service ceiling of the helicopter from a height of 6,000 m to 4,500 m. The cabin height was also reduced. It was also claimed that Finmeccanica allegedly paid kickbacks to qualify for the deal with the Indian Air Force.

Soon after the arrests in Italy, the then Defence Minister A K Antony confirmed the allegations and ordered a CBI probe. A joint parliamentary probe was also put into motion. CBI launched its investigation and registered cases against many people including retired IAF chief S P Tyagi. In 2014, the chopper deal stood canceled due to the violation of the integrity pact. Only 3 out of the 12 helicopters were delivered.

A series of arrests were made from 2014 to 2018. CBI’s investigation revealed the involvement of air force officials, public servants, and private individuals. It was also found that this deal cost about Rs.2,666 crore to the exchequer. The role of Cristian Michel was revealed as well. He is one of the three middlemen in the deal who acted as ‘brokers’. The other two are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

Christian Michel is a British consultant who was allegedly hired by AgustaWestland to manipulate high ranked officials.  He is being accused of paying bribes to government officials and politicians to ensure the bid in favor of AgustaWestland. The CBI also found that he had allegedly paid about Rs. 3,600 crores as kickbacks to Indian officials.

Meanwhile, the Italian court stated that there was a “reasonable belief that corruption took place in the case” and that former Chief Marshal S P Tyagi was also involved. But the bribery charges could not be proved and the defendants were acquitted of all charges.

However, CBI was not satisfied and in 2017 began the proceedings for the extradition of Christian Michel from Dubai. By December 2018, he was brought to India.

Legal provisions involved

The extradition of Christian Michel from Dubai is a diplomatic success for India.

India has extradition treaties with about 44 countries. Out of this 44, the United Arab Emirates has been the most helpful. So far, over the past 15 years, it has successfully deported or extradited 19 of 66 fugitives to India.

In simple terms, extradition is the surrender of one criminal to a particular country by another country. As per the principles of criminal law, a country cannot apply its penal code on a person who has committed a crime outside its territorial jurisdiction except in cases of national interest.

Extradition is an essential mechanism to ensure the prosecution in cases of cross-border crimes. This process is enabled by treaties between different countries. It can take place only between such countries that have signed the requisite treaty. Extradition arrangements are also often made by countries to mutually assist each other in relevant cases. In India, the extradition process is governed by the Indian Extradition Act, 1962.

Christian Michel’s extradition is a big win for Indian authorities owing to his key role in the VVIP chopper scam. He is currently lodged in the Tihar Jail. CBI is probing his role as a middleman in the deal whereas the ED has launched an investigation in the money laundering charges against him.

Recent developments in the case

Until now many arrests have been made that include Madhya Pradesh’s former Chief Minister, Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri and Christian Michel. Interrogations are going on. Michel has claimed that his interrogation went on for more than 600 hours.

Bail pleas are being dismissed repeatedly. Christian Michel has tried again and again but he was unsuccessful. Very recently, Delhi High Court, as well as the Supreme Court, dismissed his plea that was on the grounds of the risk of contracting coronavirus in prison.

Ratul Puri continues to be in prison. Investigations are going on; the evidence is being collected along with regular interrogations. In February, CBI was all set to obtain the required sanctions for filing charges against public servants involved in the AgustaWestland scam.

Testimonies of both the arrested individuals reveal that classified information on the deal was shared with the Ex IAF Chief Tyagi. According to reports, Michel was religiously keeping track of the files of the deal with the help of the retired official.

Probable future

India is facing a long legal battle in this case because merely an extradition cannot be a full-fledged win. It is important to note that Italy was the one that started this judicial battle against AgustaWestland. Hence, a major part of the evidence still lies with the Italian Government.  It is yet another battle for the Indian officials to acquire the details of the retrial proceedings or even simple documents. No treaties exist that allow the sharing of judicial information. Though, the previous charge sheets against the CEO and middlemen, Christian Michel are available. An intensive analysis of the same is yet to be conducted.

This scam that has crossed borders is extremely important for India and her reputation. The world must see India as a nation that takes serious actions in the service of justice.

Also, measures of the legislature such as the enactment of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 are accurate steps in the domestic arena. But to put an actual end to this menace, it is advisable to sign more substantive and detailed extradition treaties with more countries.

This scam has also ruffled the feathers of the Indian politics by putting into question top UPA leaders like Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. As details continue to be revealed by Christian Michel, it can lead to a storm in Indian politics with accusations on many top leaders. He has however already given the story a plot twister by claiming that he is being offered a deal to incriminate Sonia Gandhi in exchange for his freedom.

Conclusion

India has seen a surge in the number of high profile white-collar crimes over the past few tears. AgustaWestland scam becomes important than others as it involved not only private individuals but also top government officials and political leaders.  The arrest and extradition of Christian Michel throw light on the necessity of robust extradition treaties. Currently, India has extradition treaties only with 44 countries. This number must see an increase. Michel’s extradition can pave the way for other extraditions involving names like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi.

On 8 April 2016, the Milan Court of Appeal overturned the lower court’s decision and sentenced the former CEO of Finmeccanica, Orsi to four years of imprisonment. Later, on 8 January 2018, the Milan Third Court of Appeals gave its final decision of acquittal due to insufficient evidence. This case has seen serious twists and turns. But one thing that must be noted is that corruption still has its roots in India.

Author: Anushree Tadge from ILS Law College, Pune.

Editor: Shalu Bhati  from Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.

What are CBI courts?

Reading time: 6-8 minutes.

The CBI court of Ranchi recently awarded death sentence to 23-year-old Rahul Raj for the rape and murder of a 19 year old engineering student. This case was decided on the fourth anniversary of Delhi’s Nirbhaya case. This trial was decided a little above one month, as said by the officials of CBI.

The case was decided by CBI judge AK Mishra, who found Rahul Raj guilty of rape and murder of the victim. The girl was reported to be a fourth semester student of engineering collage located in Oramanjhi, Ranchi.

This death sentence was decided almost in a month which is nothing but an added feather to the golden cap of justice for women. The victim’s body was found naked on December 16, 2016 amidst smoke from the house that was on fire.

An autopsy confirmed that victim of crime was raped and then murdered. The Jharkhand police collected sample of DNA of accused from victim’s body, and subsequently apprehended the accused.

The case did not immediately receive justice. The case came to the limelight when the students of Jharkhand commenced a protest for justice for the victim. The protest was later joined by students of the victim’s engineering college student and locals. This case took a total of 15 months to reach the CBI.

The CBI registered the case on March 28, 2018 and began the hunt for the culprit. This case was almost blind with zero clue, but still CBI with high efforts by profiling people into various groups based on age tried to find the suspect.

The apprehended accused was habitual offender as he had charges of sexual attack on minor as was in judicial custody for 3 years. CBI further came to know that offender had 10 cases against him in Utter Pradesh and Bihar.

CBI courts: In brief

CBI courts are established under Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. They were established so as to reduce the burden on judicial system. The judges of these special courts obtain their position through election, rather than merit or common judicial system. A CBI magistrate is appointed one who is in rank of Chief Judicial Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate First Class. Funding of these court is obtained by the CBI court itself.

CBI courts are another form of district court, these courts are made to deal with cases to be specially dealt with by the CBI. The purpose of these courts is to make the path of justice as simple, continent, and justified as possible.

CBI courts generally deal with complicated and highlighted cases which involve many evidences. As the courts try only limited cases, they can try these cases more effectively.

As district and session court decision can be challenged in high court, similarly decisions of CBI courts can be challenged in the high court.

Difference from usual criminal courts

CBI courts exclusively deal with only those cases that are filled under CBI. Criminal courts deal with normal cases that are initiated either by directly approaching the Magistrate with a criminal complaint under s. 190 CrPC, or by filing a First Information Report with the State Police under s. 154 CrPC.

The strength of a CBI Court depends upon the number of cases it has under it to deal with. Generally there is one CBI court for a particular state, all cases of that state which are dealt by CBI are tried by that CBI court. On the other hand, criminal courts are generally present in every district.

However, there is not much difference in their working. CBI courts normally function like regular criminal courts. As for pendency of cases, CBI has very less in number as compared to criminal courts. CBI courts ensure faster disposal of cases, as in the case stated above of rape and murder which was concluded in 30 days.

Procedure of a trial by CBI court is same as of normal criminal court. The officers appointed as judge of CBI courts is by High Court and they generally have a tenure of 3 to 4 years on deputation from their regular court. The judges of these CBI courts are officers of regular cadre of particular state cadre judiciary.

Once these officers are on deputation to a CBI court from a regular court, for that period of time they cannot hold regular courts. On the other hand, criminal court do not have any particular type of compulsion to follow.

Legal provisions for CBI courts

Legal powers of investigation of CBI is given under the Delhi special police establishment act (DSPE) 1946. It confers power, duties, privileges and liabilities to CBI, which are concurrent and coextensive in nature. This is given to all members of CBI; limitations can be applied with lower position.

The Central Government is given power, which it can extend to any area, beside Union Territories the jurisdiction and power of member of CBI for investigating subject is free without any restriction of any concerned state.

While exercising such powers, people above rank of Sub-Inspector in CBI are deemed to be officer’s incharge of police station of particular jurisdiction. The CBI has power to investigate only in such type of offences as per what is notified under Central Government under DSPE act.

As law and order is a subject of state list, and because basic jurisdiction to investigate crime lies with state government police itself. Beside due to limited resources and restriction, CBI would not able to investigate crime of all kinds.

Appellate system

CBI courts follow a similar procedure of appeal as is followed by regular criminal courts. Appellate courts are those courts of the judicial system which are responsible for hearing and reviewing those cases which have been already decided by some lower court. CBI cases are to be appealed for reconsideration in High Court of that particular state, it can further be appealed to at our highest court of justice, Supreme Court.

Conclusion

Justice delayed is justice denied. Justice is one of the foundation basic foundation of any society. It is therefore necessary for judiciary to perform its duty for any society properly keeping peace, harmony and progress in mind.

Unfortunately, the Indian judiciary faces the serious issue of delayed justice in many cases. The Indian judiciary have structural problems that mostly prevent it from working efficiently for timely disposal of cases.

However, these structural problems have improved with time. Many new courts have been established for dealing with special cases, thereby lessening the burden on regular courts. One of these new courts is the CBI court, which has proved its efficiency by concluding a case of high importance within 1 month.

We know, that pendency of cases in nationwide problem, it varies vastly from state to state. Average pendency is anywhere in range between two years to nine years.

To solve this problem, we need to form more such type of special courts. We also need to work on problems that lead to delay on daily basis. With this our justice system will be improved and will be able to give better and correct results in a shorter period of time.       

Author: Prachi Agnihotri from UPES, Dehradun.

Editor: Anna Jose Kallivayalil from NLU, Delhi.

All you need to know about the INX Media case

Reading time: 3-4 minutes.

The INX Media case is back in the limelight with the recent arrest of senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram by CBI and ED. This arrest came after the declaration of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court that the INX media case is a “classic case of money laundering” and when the court was of clear opinion that Chidambaram’s arrest was a necessity for interrogation regarding efficient and effective investigation of the case.

Mr. Chidambaram is being questioned about the alleged irregularities on his behalf in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearances to the media group for getting overseas funds amounting to approximately Rs. 305 crores by both the investigation agencies. This act was supposedly committed by him when he was the finance minister under the UPA-I government (2004-9).

What is the background of this case?

In the year 2007, businessman Peter Mukherjee and his wife Indrani Mukherjee co-founded a media group with the name of INX Media. On 31st of May 2007, FIPB allowed INX media to get a foreign investment of Rs. 4.62 crores contrary to which the INX Media received rather a sum of Rs. 305.36 crores in violations of the rules laid down by the FIPB.

Also, INX media started pumping a downstream investment of approx. 26% in the INX News without any approval from FIPB. In January 2010, the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Finance Ministry found some kind of anomaly in money flow from three Mauritius based firms into INX Media. And that is when this came under the scanner of ED. ED registered a case for alleged violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act against INX Media.

In the year 2017, this case again garnered some spotlight when in May the CBI filed an FIR alleging some irregularities in FIPB’s clearance to INX Media to receive overseas funds of Rs. 305 crores in 2007 when Mr. P. Chidambaram was the finance minister.

Between 2017 and 2018, a lot happened in this case where Madras HC issued an order which got overturned by the Hon’ble SC. CBI came into picture when it claimed that it had furnished details on possible transactions in foreign countries and other alleged offshore properties of Karti Chidambaram (son of P. Chidambaram). Karti moved to SC challenging the summon issued by CBI.

Then in 2018, in the month of February, Karti Chidambaram got arrested by CBI at the Chennai Airport. Delhi HC sent him to one day police custody in the INX Media case. In 2019, already jailed Indrani Mukherjee decided to become an approver in the case. In August 2019, a bail application of Mr. P. Chidambaram got rejected by the Delhi HC. And finally, the recent incident of CBI detaining Chidambaram and taking him to headquarters for interrogation took place on 21st August 2019.

What are the various legal issues involved?

There are certain significant legal issues involved in the case of INX Media. It has already been declared by the Delhi HC that this case is clear example of a money launderig. The legal issues involved in the case are:

  • Allegations of bribery by the company’s promoters.
  • Conditions laid down by the FIPB for the grant of FDI to be received by INX Media to be 4.62 crores was violated severely.
  • Allegations have been made against the company to have been indulged in a criminal conspiracy with Karti Chidambaram to get the issue addressed amicably by influencing public servants in FIPB.

Probable future course…

After the arrest of Mr. Chidambaram in the INX Media case, the probable future course in front of him and his legal team seems a bit complex. As Mr. Chidambaram is a Rajya Sabha member, the rules of procedure and conduct of business of the Rajya Sabha state that if a member is arrested or sentenced to imprisonment, the executive authority has to “immediately intimate” the chairman of the House.

As the arrest has already happened and Mr. Chidambaram has already been sent to 5 days’ custody, the anticipatory bail plea becomes infructuous. Thus, the lawyers of Mr. Chidambaram will have to file immediately for bail which will first be mentioned before a magistrate. If rejected, it will be appealed in the Delhi High Court and in case it gets rejected there as well, the order can then be challenged in the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Even in case that the bail is granted, the CBI can also challenge that order in higher court.

This article is brought to you in collaboration with Aprajita Jha from National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam.