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Supreme Court of India
P Chidambaram vs Central Bureau Of Investigation on 22 October, 2019Author: R. Banumathi

Bench: R. Banumathi, A.S. Bopanna, Hrishikesh Roy

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1603 2019
(Arising out of SLP(Crl.) No.9269 of 2019)

SHRI P. CHIDAMBARAM …Appellant

VERSUS

CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION …Respondent

WITH

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1605 2019
(Arising out of SLP(Crl.) No.9445 of 2019)

JUDGMENT

R. BANUMATHI, J.

Leave granted.

2. These appeals arise out of the impugned judgment dated

30.09.2019 passed by the High Court of Delhi in Bail Application

No.2270 of 2019 in and by which the High Court refused to grant

bail to the appellant in the case registered by the respondent-
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
MADHU BALA
Date: 2019.10.22
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under Section 120B IPC read
11:36:00 IST
Reason:

1
with Section 420 IPC, Section 8 and Section 13(2) read with Section

13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

3. This appeal relates to the alleged irregularities in Foreign

Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the INX

Media for receiving foreign investment to the tune of Rs.305 crores

against approved inflow of Rs.4.62 crores. Briefly stated case of the

prosecution as per the FIR is as under:- In 2007, INX Media Pvt.

Ltd. approached Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB)

seeking approval for FDI upto 46.216 per cent of the issued equity

capital. While sending the proposal by INX Media to be placed

before the FIPB, INX Media had clearly mentioned in it the inflow of

FDI to the extent of Rs.4,62,16,000/- taking the proposed issue at

its face value. The FIPB in its meeting held on 18.05.2007

recommended the proposal of INX Media subject to the approval of

the Finance Minister-the appellant. In the meeting, the Board did not

approve the downstream investment by INX Media in INX News.

INX Media committed violation of the recommendation of FIPB and

the conditions of the approval as:- (i) INX Media deliberately made a

downstream investment to the extent of 26% in the capital of INX

News Ltd. without specific approval of FIPB which included indirect

foreign investment by the same Foreign Investors; (ii) generated

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more than Rs.305 crores FDI in INX Media which is in clear violation

of the approved foreign flow of Rs.4.62 crores by issuing shares to

the foreign investors at a premium of more than Rs.800/- per share.

4. Upon receipt of a complaint on the basis of a cheque for an

amount of Rs.10,00,000/- made in favour of M/s Advantage

Strategic Consulting Private Limited (ASCPL) by INX Media, the

investigation wing of the Income Tax Department proceeded to

investigate the matter and the relevant information was sought from

the FIPB, which in turn, vide its letter dated 26.05.2008 sought

clarification from the INX Media which justified its action saying that

the downstream investment has been approved and that the same

was made in accordance with the approval of FIPB. It is alleged by

the prosecution that in order to get out of the situation without any

penal provision, INX Media entered into a criminal conspiracy with

Sh. Karti Chidambaram, Promoter Director, Chess Management

Services Pvt. Ltd. and the appellant-the then Finance Minister of

India. INX Media through the letter dated 26.06.2008 tried to justify

their action stating that the downstream investment has been

approved and the same was made in accordance with approval.

5. It is alleged that INX Media Group in its record has clearly

mentioned the purpose of payment of Rs.10,00,000/- to ASCPL as

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towards “management consultancy charges towards FIPB

notification and clarification”. The FIR further alleges that for the

services rendered by Sh. Karti Chidambaram to INX Media through

Chess Management Services in getting the issues scuttled by

influencing the public servants of FIPB unit of the Ministry of

Finance, consideration in the form of payments were received

against invoices raised on INX Media by ASCPL. It is further

alleged that the very reason for getting the invoices raised in the

name of ASCPL for the services rendered by Chess Management

Services was with a view to conceal the identity of Sh. Karti

Chidambaram. It is stated that Sh. Karti Chidambaram was the

Promoter, Director of Chess Management Services whereas ASCPL

was being controlled by him indirectly. It is alleged that the invoices

approximately for an amount of Rs.3.50 crores were falsely got

raised in favour of INX Media in the name of other companies in

which Sh. Karti Chidambaram was having sustainable interest either

directly or indirectly. It is alleged that such invoices were falsely got

raised for creation of acquisition of media content, consultancy in

respect of market research, acquisition of content of various genre

of Audio-Video etc. Alleging that the above acts of omission and

commission prima facie disclose commission of offence, on

15.05.2017, CBI registered FIR in RC No.220/2017-E-0011 under

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Section 120B IPC read with Section 420 IPC, Section 8 and Section

13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act,

1988 against the accused viz. (i) INX Media through its Director

Indrani Mukherjea; (ii) INX News through its Director Sh. Pratim

Mukherjea @ Peter Mukherjea and others; (iii) Sh. Karti P.

Chidambaram; (iv) Chess Management Services through its

Director Sh. Karti P. Chidambaram and others; (v) Advantage

Strategic Consulting through its Director Ms. Padma Vishwanathan

@ Padma Bhaskararaman and others; (vi) unknown officers/officials

of Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India; and (vii) other unknown

persons for the alleged irregularities in giving FIPB’s clearance to

INX Media to receive overseas funds of Rs.305 crores against

approved Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of Rs.4.62 crores.

6. Apprehending arrest, the appellant filed petition under Section

438 Cr.P.C. before the High Court seeking anticipatory bail. Vide

order dated 31.05.2018, the High Court granted interim protection to

the appellant and the said interim protection continued till

20.08.2019. By the order dated 20.08.2019, the High Court

dismissed the application for anticipatory bail to the appellant.

Challenging the order declining anticipatory bail to the appellant,

SLP(Crl.) No.7525 of 2019 was preferred by the appellant before

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the Supreme Court on 21.08.2019. In the meanwhile, the appellant

was arrested by the CBI on the night of 21.08.2019 and the

appellant has been in custody since then. Since the appellant was

arrested in connection with CBI case, the appellant’s SLP being

SLP(Crl.) No.7525 of 2019 was dismissed as infructuous. Insofar

as the case registered by Enforcement Directorate, SLP(Crl.)

No.7523 of 2019 was dismissed by this Court refusing to grant

anticipatory bail to the appellant by a detailed order dated

05.09.2019. In the present case, we are concerned only with the

case registered by the respondent-CBI in RC No.220/2017-E-0011.

7. The High Court by its impugned judgment dated 30.09.2019

refused to grant regular bail to the appellant and dismissed the bail

application. Before the High Court, three contentions were raised by

the respondent-CBI:- (i) flight risk; (ii) tampering with evidence; and

(iii) influencing witnesses. The learned Single Judge did not accept

the objection relating to “flight risk” and “tampering with evidence”.

Insofar as the objection of “flight risk” is concerned, the High Court

held that the appellant was not a “flight risk” and it was observed

that by issuing certain directions like “surrender of passport”,

“issuance of look-out notice” and such other directions, “flight risk”

can be secured. So far as the objection of “tampering with

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evidence”, the High Court held that the documents relating to the

present case are in the custody of the prosecuting agency,

Government of India and the Court and therefore, there is no

possibility of the appellant tampering with the evidence. But on the

third count i.e. “influencing the witnesses”, the High Court held that

the investigation was in an advance stage and the possibility of the

appellant influencing the witnesses cannot be ruled out.

8. The appellant has challenged the impugned judgment denying

bail to him on the court’s apprehension that he is likely to influence

the witnesses. So far as the findings of the High Court on two

counts namely “flight risk” and “tampering with evidence” holding in

favour of the appellant, CBI has filed SLP(Crl.) No.9445 of 2019.

9. Mr. Kapil Sibal, learned Senior counsel for the appellant has

submitted that the High Court erred in dismissing the bail application

on mere apprehension that the appellant is likely to influence the

witnesses and there is no supporting material on the possibility of

the appellant of influencing the witnesses. Learned Senior counsel

further submitted that the reference to the two material witnesses

(accused) having been approached not to disclose information

regarding the appellant and his son, is not supported by any

material and the same lacks material particulars and no credibility

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could be given to the allegations given in a sealed cover. It was

further submitted that the learned Single Judge did not appreciate

that in various remand applications filed by the respondent, there

was no allegation that any material witnesses (accused) having

been approached not to disclose information about the appellant

and his son and the above allegation has been made as an

afterthought in a sealed cover only to prejudice the grant of bail to

the appellant. The learned Senior counsel submitted that the

appellant was interrogated by the CBI only once though the CBI had

taken appellant’s custody for number of days.

10. Dr. A.M. Singhvi, learned Senior counsel submitted that “bail

is a rule and jail is an exception” and this well-settled position has

not been kept in view by the High Court. The learned Senior

counsel submitted that bail was denied to the appellant based on

what was given in a sealed cover and submitted “that the

apprehension of CBI-possibility of influencing the witnesses” is an

afterthought. Placing reliance upon Mahender Chawla and others

v. Union of India and others 2018 (15) SCALE 497, the learned

Senior counsel submitted that if really the appellant approached the

witnesses so as to influence them, the prosecution could have

taken steps and sought for protection of the witnesses as per the

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“witnesses protection scheme” laid down in Mahender Chawla’s

case. The learned Senior counsel further submitted that all other

accused are on bail and there is no justifiable reason to deny bail to

the appellant. It is also contended that now the charge sheet has

been filed and it does not indicate that tampering with evidence or

intimidating witness is a charge but the allegation is continued to be

made based on something unilaterally recorded and produced in a

sealed cover before the High Court which was only to prejudice the

mind of the Court.

11. So far as the cross appeal filed by the CBI, the learned Senior

counsel for the appellant submitted that after the anticipatory bail

was refused to the appellant by the High Court on 20.08.2019, the

appellant approached the Supreme Court for urgent hearing on the

very same day i.e. on 20.08.2019 and made a mention before the

Senior Judge on 21.08.2019 who had directed the matter be listed

for urgent hearing after placing the matter before Hon’ble the Chief

Justice of India and thereafter, the matter was listed on 23.08.2019.

The learned Senior counsel submitted that on 20.08.2019 and

21.08.2019, the appellant had consultation with his lawyers and was

preparing the matter for filing SLP and there was no question of his

abscondence. It is submitted that the appellant thereafter

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addressed a press conference and then proceeded to his own

house from where he was arrested. It was submitted that the

appellant had thus not even attempted to conceal himself or evade

the process of law. It was contended that the FIR is of 2017 and the

appellant has not left the country ever since, instead he had joined

the investigation and co-operated with the investigating agency. It

was further submitted that the appellant being a Member of

Parliament and a Senior Member of the Bar, there is no question of

“flight risk” and the High Court rightly held in favour of the appellant

on two counts viz. “flight risk” and “tampering with evidence”.

12. Mr. Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General submitted that

while considering the bail application, the court should look into the

gravity of the offence and that the possibility of the accused

apprehending his conviction fleeing the country and since many

economic offenders have fled from the country and the nation is

facing this problem of the “economic offenders fleeing the country”.

It was submitted that the second test is to find out whether the

accused has wherewithal to flee the country and possessing

resources and capacity to settle abroad. It was contended that the

respondent-CBI has definite material to show that the “witness was

influenced” and in order to prevent further possibility of influence

10
and the vulnerability of the witness, the identity and the statement of

the said witness cannot be shared with the accused. It was

submitted that the statement of the said witness that he was being

approached not to disclose any information regarding the appellant

and his son, was produced before the High Court in a sealed cover

and based upon the same, the High Court rightly refused to grant

bail on the ground of “likelihood of influencing the witnesses”. The

learned Solicitor General submitted that “likelihood of influencing the

witness” is not a mere apprehension but based upon material and

there is serious danger of the witnesses being influenced and the

mere presence of the accused-appellant would be sufficient to

intimidate the witnesses.

13. The learned Solicitor General further submitted that the

charge sheet has been filed on 18.10.2019 against the appellant

and his son Sh. Karti Chidambaram and others including the

officials under Section 120B IPC read with Section 420 IPC,

Sections 468 and 471 IPC and under Section 9 and 13(2) read with

Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. It was

submitted that the investigation qua INX is largely over and the

investigation reveals that more companies are involved and the

investigation qua other companies are going on and if the appellant

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is granted bail at this stage, it would prejudicially affect the further

course of investigation. The learned Solicitor General therefore

prayed for dismissal of the appeal filed by the appellant accused

and allow the appeal filed by the CBI.

14. We have carefully considered the contentions and perused

the impugned judgment and materials on record. The question

falling for consideration is when other factors i.e. “flight risk” and

“tampering with evidence” are held in favour of the appellant,

whether the High Court was justified in declining regular bail to the

appellant on the apprehension that there is possibility that the

appellant might influence the witnesses.

15. The learned Senior counsel for the appellant submitted that in

the High Court, the appellant made submission limited to the

applicability of the certain “Press Note” and the correctness of the

decision taken by FIPB and the Finance Ministry only to show prima

facie for the purpose of grant of bail and to show that the allegations

against the appellant are unfounded and incorrect. It was submitted

that the learned Single Judge even before the charges being

framed and trial being held, had gone into the merits and demerits

of the allegations against the appellant and rendered conclusive

findings on the merits merely based on the allegations itself causing

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serious prejudice to the appellant and his defence in the impending

trial and the impugned judgment passed by the High Court is

completely contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court. In

support of this contention, the learned Senior counsel placed

reliance upon Niranjan Singh and another v. Prabhakar Rajaram

Kharote and others (1980) 2 SCC 559.

16. Refuting the said contentions, the learned Solicitor General

submitted that though at the stage of grant or refusal to grant of bail,

detailed examination of the merits of the matter is not required, but

the court has to indicate reasons for prima facie concluding as to

why bail was granted or refused. In support of his contention, the

learned Solicitor General placed reliance upon Kalyan Chandra

Sarkar v. Rajesh Ranjan and another (2004) 7 SCC 528 and Puran

v. Rambilas and another (2001) 6 SCC 338. It was contended that

the findings recorded by the learned Single Judge is only to record

prima facie finding indicating as to why bail was not granted and the

reasonings cannot be said to be touching upon the merits of the

case.

17. Expression of prima facie reasons for granting or refusing to

grant bail is a requirement of law especially where such bail orders

are appealable so as to indicate application of mind to the matter

13
under consideration and the reasons for conclusion. Recording of

reasons is necessary since the accused/prosecution/victim has

every right to know the reasons for grant or refusal to grant bail.

This will also help the appellate court to appreciate and consider the

reasonings for grant or refusal to grant bail. But giving reasons for

exercise of discretion in granting or refusing to grant bail is different

from discussing the merits or demerits of the case. At the stage of

granting bail, an elaborate examination of evidence and detailed

reasons touching upon the merit of the case, which may prejudice

the accused, should be avoided. Observing that “at the stage of

granting bail, detailed examination of evidence and elaborate

documentation of the merits of the case should be avoided”, in

Niranjan Singh, it was held as under:-

“3. ……Detailed examination of the evidence and elaborate
documentation of the merits should be avoided while passing
orders on bail applications. No party should have the impression
that his case has been prejudiced. To be satisfied about a prima
facie case is needed but it is not the same as an exhaustive
exploration of the merits in the order itself.”

18. In the present case, in the impugned judgment, paras (51) to

(70) relate to the findings on the merits of the prosecution case. As

discussed earlier, at the stage of considering the application for bail,

detailed examination of the merits of the prosecution case and the

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merits or demerits of the materials relied upon by the prosecution,

should be avoided. It is therefore, made clear that the findings of

the High Court in paras (51) to (70) be construed as expression of

opinion only for the purpose of refusal to grant bail and the same

shall not in any way influence the trial or other proceedings.

19. The learned Senior counsel for the appellant has taken us

through the dates and events and submitted that in the Enforcement

Directorate’s case after the dismissal of the appeal by the Supreme

Court refusing to grant anticipatory bail, immediately the appellant

sought to surrender in the Enforcement Directorate’s case; but the

same was objected to by the Enforcement Directorate and the

Department has sought to arrest the appellant subsequently only on

11.10.2019 and the investigating agencies are prejudicially acting

against the appellant to ensure that the appellant is not released on

bail and continues to languish in custody.

20. Refuting the said contention of the appellant that the

investigating agencies-CBI and Enforcement Directorate are bent

upon prolonging the custody of the appellant, the learned Solicitor

General submitted that after the anticipatory bail was dismissed by

the Supreme Court in Criminal Appeal No.1340 of 2019 on

05.09.2019, the appellant has filed the petition to surrender in the

15
Enforcement Directorate’s case on 05.09.2019 itself and the

Enforcement Directorate objected to the surrender of the appellant.

The learned Solicitor General submitted that the Enforcement

Directorate wanted to take custody of the appellant in the

Enforcement Directorate’s case only after examination of witnesses

and collecting relevant materials. It was submitted that between

06.09.2019 and 09.10.2019, twelve witnesses were examined and

thereafter, the Enforcement Directorate filed an application on

11.10.2019 seeking permission to arrest the appellant in connection

with Enforcement Directorate’s case and thereafter, application for

custodial interrogation of the appellant was filed and the

Enforcement Directorate has taken the appellant to custody for

interrogation for seven days (vide order dated 17.10.2019). It was

therefore contended that no motive could be attributed to the

investigating agency be it CBI or Enforcement Directorate on the

timing of their action in the case against the appellant.

21. In this appeal, we are only concerned with the question of

grant of bail or otherwise to the appellant in the CBI case. We have

referred to the submission of learned Senior counsel for the

appellant and learned Solicitor General only for the sake of

completion of the sequence of the contentions raised. Since the

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matter pertaining to Enforcement Directorate is pending before the

concerned court, we are not expressing any opinion on the merits of

the rival contention; lest it might prejudice the parties in the

appropriate proceedings.

22. The jurisdiction to grant bail has to be exercised on the basis

of the well-settled principles having regard to the facts and

circumstances of each case. The following factors are to be taken

into consideration while considering an application for bail:- (i) the

nature of accusation and the severity of the punishment in the case

of conviction and the nature of the materials relied upon by the

prosecution; (ii) reasonable apprehension of tampering with the

witnesses or apprehension of threat to the complainant or the

witnesses; (iii) reasonable possibility of securing the presence of the

accused at the time of trial or the likelihood of his abscondence; (iv)

character behaviour and standing of the accused and the

circumstances which are peculiar to the accused; (v) larger interest

of the public or the State and similar other considerations (vide

Prahlad Singh Bhati v. NCT, Delhi and another (2001) 4 SCC 280).

There is no hard and fast rule regarding grant or refusal to grant

bail. Each case has to be considered on the facts and

circumstances of each case and on its own merits. The discretion

17
of the court has to be exercised judiciously and not in an arbitrary

manner. At this stage itself, it is necessary for us to indicate that we

are unable to accept the contention of the learned Solicitor General

that “flight risk” of economic offenders should be looked at as a

national phenomenon and be dealt with in that manner merely

because certain other offenders have flown out of the country. The

same cannot, in our view, be put in a straight-jacket formula so as to

deny bail to the one who is before the Court, due to the conduct of

other offenders, if the person under consideration is otherwise

entitled to bail on the merits of his own case. Hence, in our view,

such consideration including as to “flight risk” is to be made on

individual basis being uninfluenced by the unconnected cases,

more so, when the personal liberty is involved.

23. In Kalyan Chandra Sarkar v. Rajesh Ranjan and another

(2004) 7 SCC 528, it was held as under:-

“11. The law in regard to grant or refusal of bail is very well settled.
The court granting bail should exercise its discretion in a judicious
manner and not as a matter of course. Though at the stage of
granting bail a detailed examination of evidence and elaborate
documentation of the merit of the case need not be undertaken,
there is a need to indicate in such orders reasons for prima facie
concluding why bail was being granted particularly where the
accused is charged of having committed a serious offence. Any
order devoid of such reasons would suffer from non-application of
mind. It is also necessary for the court granting bail to consider

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among other circumstances, the following factors also before
granting bail; they are:
(a) The nature of accusation and the severity of
punishment in case of conviction and the nature of
supporting evidence.
(b) Reasonable apprehension of tampering with the
witness or apprehension of threat to the complainant.
(c) Prima facie satisfaction of the court in support of the
charge. (See Ram Govind Upadhyay v. Sudarshan Singh
(2002) 3 SCC 598 and Puran v. Rambilas (2001) 6 SCC
338.)

Referring to the factors to be taken into consideration for grant of

bail, in Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal v. State of Tamil Nadu

(2005) 2 SCC 13, it was held as under:-

“16. …….The considerations which normally weigh with the court in
granting bail in non-bailable offences have been explained by this
Court in State v. Capt. Jagjit Singh AIR 1962 SC 253 and
Gurcharan Singh v. State (Delhi Admn.) (1978) 1 SCC 118 and
basically they are — the nature and seriousness of the offence; the
character of the evidence; circumstances which are peculiar to the
accused; a reasonable possibility of the presence of the accused
not being secured at the trial; reasonable apprehension of
witnesses being tampered with; the larger interest of the public or
the State and other similar factors which may be relevant in the
facts and circumstances of the case……”

24. After referring para (11) of Kalyan Chandra Sarkar, in State of

U.P. through CBI v. Amarmani Tripathi (2005) 8 SCC 21, it was held

as under:-

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“18. It is well settled that the matters to be considered in an
application for bail are (i) whether there is any prima facie or
reasonable ground to believe that the accused had committed the
offence; (ii) nature and gravity of the charge; (iii) severity of the
punishment in the event of conviction; (iv) danger of the accused
absconding or fleeing, if released on bail; (v) character, behaviour,
means, position and standing of the accused; (vi) likelihood of the
offence being repeated; (vii) reasonable apprehension of the
witnesses being tampered with; and (viii) danger, of course, of
justice being thwarted by grant of bail [see Prahlad Singh Bhati v.
NCT, Delhi (2001) 4 SCC 280 and Gurcharan Singh v. State (Delhi
Admn.) (1978) 1 SCC 118]. While a vague allegation that the
accused may tamper with the evidence or witnesses may not be a
ground to refuse bail, if the accused is of such character that his
mere presence at large would intimidate the witnesses or if there is
material to show that he will use his liberty to subvert justice or
tamper with the evidence, then bail will be refused……..”.

25. In the light of the above well-settled principles, let us consider

the present case. At the outset, it is to be pointed out that in the

impugned judgment, the High Court mainly focussed on the nature

of the allegations and the merits of the case; but the High Court did

not keep in view the well-settled principles for grant or refusal to

grant bail.

26. As discussed earlier, insofar as the “flight risk” and “tampering

with evidence” are concerned, the High Court held in favour of the

appellant by holding that the appellant is not a “flight risk” i.e. “no

possibility of his abscondence”. The High Court rightly held that by

20
issuing certain directions like “surrender of passport”, “issuance of

look out notice”, “flight risk” can be secured. So far as “tampering

with evidence” is concerned, the High Court rightly held that the

documents relating to the case are in the custody of the prosecuting

agency, Government of India and the Court and there is no chance

of the appellant tampering with evidence.

27. The learned Solicitor General submitted that when the

accused is facing grave charges and when he entertains doubts of

possibility of his being conviction, there is a “flight risk”. It was

submitted that the appellant has wherewithal to flee away from the

country and prayed to refuse bail to the appellant on the ground of

“flight risk” also. We find no merit in the submission that the

appellant is a “flight risk” and there is possibility of his abscondence.

In the FIR registered on 15.05.2017, the High Court has granted

interim protection to the appellant on 31.05.2018 and the same was

in force till 20.08.2019 – the date on which the High Court dismissed

the appellant’s petition for anticipatory bail. Between 31.05.2018

and 20.08.2019, when the appellant was having interim protection,

the appellant did not file any application seeking permission to travel

abroad nor prior to the same after registration of FIR any attempt is

shown to have been made to flee. On behalf of the appellant, it is

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stated that the appellant being the Member of Parliament and a

Senior Member of the Bar has strong roots in society and his

passport having been surrendered and “look out notice” issued

against him, there is no likelihood of his fleeing away from the

country or his abscondence from the trial. We find merit in the

submission of the learned Senior counsel for the appellant that the

appellant is not a “flight risk”; more so, when the appellant has

surrendered his passport and when there is a “lookout notice”

issued against the appellant.

28. So far as the allegation of possibility of influencing the

witnesses, the High Court referred to the arguments of the learned

Solicitor General which is said to have been a part of a “sealed

cover” that two material witnesses are alleged to have been

approached not to disclose any information regarding the appellant

and his son and the High Court observed that the possibility of

influencing the witnesses by the appellant cannot be ruled out. The

relevant portion of the impugned judgment of the High Court in para

(72) reads as under:-

“72. As argued by learned Solicitor General, (which is part of
‘Sealed Cover’, two material witnesses (accused) have been
approached for not to disclose any information regarding the
petitioner and his son (co-accused). This court cannot dispute the
fact that petitioner has been a strong Finance Minister and Home

22
Minister and presently, Member of Indian Parliament. He is
respectable member of the Bar Association of Supreme Court of
India. He has long standing in BAR as a Senior Advocate. He has
deep root in the Indian Society and may be some connection in
abroad. But, the fact that he will not influence the witnesses
directly or indirectly, cannot be ruled out in view of above facts.
Moreover, the investigation is at advance stage, therefore, this
Court is not inclined to grant bail.”

29. FIR was registered by the CBI on 15.05.2017. The appellant

was granted interim protection on 31.05.2018 till 20.08.2019. Till

the date, there has been no allegation regarding influencing of any

witness by the appellant or his men directly or indirectly. In the

number of remand applications, there was no whisper that any

material witness has been approached not to disclose information

about the appellant and his son. It appears that only at the time of

opposing the bail and in the counter affidavit filed by the CBI before

the High Court, the averments were made that “…..the appellant is

trying to influence the witnesses and if enlarged on bail, would

further pressurize the witnesses…..”. CBI has no direct evidence

against the appellant regarding the allegation of appellant directly or

indirectly influencing the witnesses. As rightly contended by the

learned Senior counsel for the appellant, no material particulars

were produced before the High Court as to when and how those

two material witnesses were approached. There are no details as

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to the form of approach of those two witnesses either SMS, e-mail,

letter or telephonic calls and the persons who have approached the

material witnesses. Details are also not available as to when, where

and how those witnesses were approached.

30. The learned Solicitor General submitted that the statement of

witness ‘X’ who is said to have been approached not to disclose any

information regarding the appellant and his son, has been recorded

under Section 164 Cr.P.C. in which the said witness ‘X’ has made

the statement that he has been approached. Statement under

Section 164 Cr.P.C. of the said witness ‘X’ is said to have been

recorded on 15.03.2018. The said witness allegedly approached or

the other witnesses in a case of the present nature, cannot be said

to be a rustic or vulnerable witness who could be so easily

influenced; more so, when the allegations are said to be based on

documents. More particularly, there is no material to show that

the appellant or his men have been approaching the said witness so

as to influence the witness not to depose against the appellant or

his son.

31. It is to be pointed out that the respondent – CBI has filed

remand applications seeking remand of the appellant on various

dates viz. 22.08.2019, 26.08.2019, 30.08.2019, 02.09.2019,

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05.09.2019 and 19.09.2019 etc. In these applications, there were

no allegations that the appellant was trying to influence the

witnesses and that any material witnesses (accused) have been

approached not to disclose information about the appellant and his

son. In the absence of any contemporaneous materials, no weight

could be attached to the allegation that the appellant has been

influencing the witnesses by approaching the witnesses. The

conclusion of the learned Single Judge “…that it cannot be ruled out

that the petitioner will not influence the witnesses directly or

indirectly……” is not substantiated by any materials and is only a

generalised apprehension and appears to be speculative. Mere

averments that the appellant approached the witnesses and the

assertion that the appellant would further pressurize the witnesses,

without any material basis cannot be the reason to deny regular bail

to the appellant; more so, when the appellant has been in custody

for nearly two months, co-operated with the investigating agency

and the charge sheet is also filed.

32. The appellant is not a “flight risk” and in view of the conditions

imposed, there is no possibility of his abscondence from the trial.

Statement of the prosecution that the appellant has influenced the

witnesses and there is likelihood of his further influencing the

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witnesses cannot be the ground to deny bail to the appellant

particularly, when there is no such whisper in the six remand

applications filed by the prosecution. The charge sheet has been

filed against the appellant and other co-accused on 18.10.2019.

The appellant is in custody from 21.08.2019 for about two months.

The co-accused were already granted bail. The appellant is said to

be aged 74 years and is also said to be suffering from age related

health problems. Considering the above factors and the facts and

circumstances of the case, we are of the view that the appellant is

entitled to be granted bail.

33. In the result, the impugned judgment dated 30.09.2019

passed by the High Court of Delhi in Bail Application No.2270 of

2019 is set aside and the appeal arising out of SLP(Crl.) No.9269 of

2019 is allowed. The appellant is ordered to be released on bail if

not required in any other case, subject to the condition of his

executing bail bonds for a sum of Rs.1,00,000/- with two sureties of

like sum to the satisfaction of the Special Judge (PC Act), CBI-06,

Patiala House Courts, New Delhi. The passport if already not

deposited, shall be deposited with the Special Court and the

appellant shall not leave the country without leave of the Special

Court and subject to the order that may be passed by the Special

26
Judge from time to time. The appellant shall make himself available

for interrogation as and when required. Consequently, the appeal

arising out of SLP(Crl.) No.9445 of 2019 preferred by the CBI

stands dismissed. Since the High Court, in the impugned judgment,

has expressed its views on the merits of the matter, the findings of

the High Court in the impugned judgment shall not have any

bearing either in the trial or in any other proceedings. It is made

clear that the findings in this judgment be construed as expression

of opinion only for the limited purpose of considering the regular bail

in CBI case and shall not have any bearing in any other

proceedings.

………………………..J.
[R. BANUMATHI]

………………………..J.
[A.S. BOPANNA]

………………………..J.
[HRISHIKESH ROY]

New Delhi;
October 22, 2019

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