Whether the arrest of Karti Chidambaram
, son of former Union Minister P. Chidambaram, will result in some forward movement in a criminal investigation that has been going on for a long time remains to be seen. The action by the Central Bureau of Investigation comes as many as nine months after it registered an FIR, which raises the question about why it was necessary to seek his remand now.
In its FIR of May 2017, the CBI accused Mr. Karti of being part of a conspiracy with the promoters of a media company to help them get around legal issues related to foreign direct investment. Details available suggest that the primary violations of FDI norms were allegedly committed by the companies involved, INX Media (P) Ltd. and INX News (P) Ltd. The Foreign Investment Promotion Board had cleared the inflow of ₹4.62 crore to INX Media. However, the company made a downstream investment in another company, INX News, which received ₹300 crore by allocating shares at a premium to investors. The FIPB’s stand was that such downstream investment required separate clearance. The FIR alleges that in order to avoid penal action, INX Media roped in Mr. Karti to influence “public servants of the FIPB Unit in the Finance Ministry by virtue of his relationship to the then Finance Minister”
. The charges against him flow from the claim that a company said to be linked to him received ₹10 lakh as “management consultancy charges towards FIPB notification and clarification” and that other companies in which he allegedly had interests billed INX Media to the tune of ₹3.50 crore in the name of providing media content and consultancy. New charges of Mr. Karti accepting $1 million from INX Media have been used to secure his remand.
That the allegations are serious and deserving of a thorough probe is not in doubt. The question is whether there is need to arrest someone in a case like this — where the evidence is largely, if not entirely, documentary; where the risks of influencing the investigation or tampering with evidence are remote, if not non-existent; and where there is no apprehension of him fleeing the country and evading the law.
The arrest closely follows that of his chartered accountant and the interrogation of Indrani Mukherjee
, who was the co-founder of INX Media and its former CEO. As things stand, the CBI will be aware that its case against Mr. Karti will add up to something only if it is able to furnish specific details to establish that he was part of a conspiracy to influence FIPB approvals along with officials of the Finance Ministry. If one leaves aside the ₹10 lakh payment, the other details in the FIR are of a somewhat general nature and need to be backed up with documentary evidence. Failure to do so will only result in lending greater credibility to those who dismiss the case against Mr. Karti as political vendetta, and raise further questions about the necessity of and the motives for having him arrested.
via Held on arrival: on Karti Chidambaram’s arrest – The Hindu