The Supreme Court today rejected the anticipatory bail plea of P Chidambaram in the INX Media case. The court was of the opinion that "anticipatory bail has to be exercised sparingly in cases of economic offences. Considering the facts and circumstances, this is not a fit case to grant anticipatory bail." It also said that the investigating agency had to be given sufficient freedom to conduct the probe and granting anticipatory bail to the accused at this stage is likely to "frustrate" the investigation. The court asked him to move the trial court for regular bail. With this, Chidambaram now faces arrest by the ED in this case.
Given the influence Chidambaram still wields in power circles (being an ex-finance minister, he is likely to have sympathizers in most government departments) the court has rightly denied him protection from arrest. The court is also right in saying that economic offences must be treated differently and given the magnitude of the allegations and the office occupied by Chidambaram when they are alleged to have been committed, it is all the more necessary to prevent him from meddling with or trying to influence the ongoing investigation against him.
Although Chidambaram himself and the Congress party are crying hoarse that the case against him is nothing but political vendetta and an attempt to tarnish his image, prima facie he stands guilty of trying to create hurdles in the investigation process by avoiding the CBI when a notice was posted on the gate of his house as he was not at home. His son Karti says that the government is indulging in a drama for television audiences. But who afforded the opportunity? If there was a guard at the gate of the house and if he had opened the gates when the CBI team came to arrest him, there would not have been any need for officers to climb the boundary wall and create a spectacle. It did not belittle the agency; it only reinforced the view in public mind that Chidambaram was doing everything to avoid arrest.
As for political vendetta, this is just the beginning of the case. If Chidambaram, being a top lawyer himself, had appeared before the CBI and explained his position, maybe he would have been in a better position to accuse the government of highhandedness. But by being evasive, he has done the opposite. Further, if the law is the same for everyone, why is Chidambaram looking for special treatment? Instead of wasting time in trying to avoid arrest, Chidambaram should assiduously prepare his defence if he has done nothing wrong, as he claims. But if his decisions were influenced by bribery and if the CBI and the ED can prove it in court, hard days lie ahead for the man who had once presented what was called the "dream budget".