The Supreme Court bench hearing senior Congress leader P Chidambaram’s bail plea on Tuesday refused to accept Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) contention that ”flight risk” of economic offenders be viewed as a “national phenomenon” because several such persons including industrialist Vijay Mallya have fled the country.
The top court granted bail to senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram in the INX Media corruption case on Tuesday and said there cannot be a “straight-jacket formula” for this so as to deny bail to an accused due to conduct of other offenders.
“At this stage itself, it is necessary for us to indicate that we are unable to accept the contention of the 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,” said a bench headed by Justice R Banumathi.
The bench, comprising justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, said the issue regarding an accused being a ”flight risk” has to be considered on an individual level and being uninfluenced by the unconnected cases.
“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,” the bench said while setting aside the September 30 verdict of the Delhi High Court which had denied bail to P Chidambaram.
“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,” the top court said.
While opposing P Chidambaram’s bail plea in the top court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, had argued that the high court had erred in saying that the Congress leader was not a ”flight risk” as country is facing a problem where persons accused in financial frauds and economic offences are fleeing India.
“We are not comparing anyone with this individual (Chidambaram) but one of them was even a Member of Parliament,” Mehta had argued, in an apparent reference to Vijay Mallya, who owed over Rs9,000 crore to banks and fled India in 2016.
In its 27-page judgement granting bail to P Chidambaram, the top court said he is neither a “flight risk” nor is there a possibility of “his abscondence from the trial.”
“The appellant is not a ”flight risk” and in view of the conditions imposed, there is no possibility of his abscondence from the trial,” the bench said.