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HC clarifies on contentious paragraph of Chidambaram's bail order

HC clarifies on contentious paragraph of Chidambarams bail order

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court clarified on Tuesday that the allegations mentioned in a certain paragraph of its order denying bail to P Chidambaram, lodged in Tihar Jail in the INX Media money-laundering case, were related to a case of lawyer Rohit Tandon and not of the Congress leader.

Justice Suresh Kait, who clarified on Monday that paragraph 35 of the November 15 order dealt with allegations in Tandon's case, said it was "nowhere" mentioned in paragraph 40 of the 41-page verdict that the allegations were related to Chidambaram's case.

"Thus, there is no error on the face of it. However, the said paragraph (40) be read as allegations in Rohit Tandon's case," the judge said.

The court made the clarification while disposing of an Enforcement Directorate (ED) application, seeking rectification of the "accidental slip/inadvertent error" in certain paragraphs of the bail order.

The ED, through the Centre's standing counsel Amit Mahajan, claimed that there were inadvertent errors in four paragraphs - 35, 36, 39 and 40 - of the order.

"Inadvertently, it appears that the said factual portion of the judgment relied by the ED, instead of being quoted or summarised as part of the relied upon judgments, have been inadvertently/accidentally referred to in the order dated November 15 as the factual submissions made by the ED," the central agency said in its application.

The plea was vehemently opposed by senior advocate Dayan Krishnan and lawyer Arshdeep Singh, representing Chidambaram, who said it was not maintainable and the court did not have the power to alter its own order under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Krishnan said the clarifications the ED was seeking were not clerical mistakes and that they had already challenged the bail order in the Supreme Court.

Regarding paragraph 39, the court said only the law was discussed and no further error or correction was required in it.

As far as paragraph 36 was concerned, Mahajan submitted that the ED, in its submission, never talked about CCTV footage and this inadvertent error in the order be rectified.

The court clarified that the words "CCTV footage" were mentioned inadvertently and due to a clerical mistake and the reference to call data records and Account Trend Analysis was justified in view of the ED's submissions made in a sealed cover.

"The words 'CCTV footage' not to be read as part of this paragraph," it said.

On the strong opposition of Chidambaram's counsel to ED's rectification plea, the judge said if there was a mistake in the order, it could be rectified.

"Show me their (ED) submissions anywhere, which talk about CCTV footage," the judge said.

To this, Krishnan said, "Why will I show it here? We will show it in the Supreme Court, the SLP is pending there now."    

The judge, who took up the matter suo motu (on its own) on Monday following news articles which alleged that there was "cut-and-paste" work in the judgment, said, "This is motivated news. You want the order as per your choice...because you did not get the order that you wanted."               

Krishnan objected to it and said "no motive should be attributed to us. I am not concerned about news articles".

He said the ED gave some documents to the court in a sealed cover and they were not privy to it.

"I do not know what was in it," the counsel said.

The judge said, "With some sense of responsibility, I am saying I have rightly dismissed the bail application by recording my reasons."            

When Krishnan contended that the ED was trying to take collateral advantage by filing this application, the judge said it was for the court to see.

When Mahajan said what opposition could Chidambaram have with the application and that they were only trying to scandalise the issue, Krishnan shot back, saying, "No, we are not scandalising it."             

"This is what had happened in this case. I do not want to say anything more in open court," the judge remarked.

The controversy over certain paragraphs arose with news reports that the court had allegedly reproduced some parts of previous Supreme Court and high court judgments while rejecting bail to Delhi-based lawyer Rohit Tandon, who was arrested in 2016 and is an accused in a demonetisation-related money-laundering case.

Another paragraph in the order stated: "The statements recorded during investigation have evidentiary value under section 50, PMLA. Prima facie, the version given by them is in consonance with the prosecution case.

"The prosecution has further relied upon call data records, CCTV footage, Account Trend Analysis."

Chidambaram (74) was arrested by the ED in the INX Media money-laundering case on October 16.

The former Union finance minister was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case and was granted bail by the Supreme Court in that case on October 22.

The case was registered by the CBI on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007, during Chidambaram's tenure as finance minister.

Thereafter, the ED had lodged the money-laundering case in this regard in 2017.

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