INX Media: Delhi HC dismisses CBI challenge to order allowing Chidambaram to inspect documents

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday dismissed the CBIs challenge to a trial court order allowing inspection of documents by Congress leader P Chidambaram, son Karti Chidambaram and other accused in the INX media case.

The CBI had sought to set aside a special judges March 5 order that directed the agency to allow inspection of documents kept in the malkhana (room where case properties are kept) by the accused or their counsel.

Justice Mukta Gupta stated that there was “no infirmity” in the trial courts order in view of the Supreme Courts observation that a list of even unrelied documents should be furnished to the accused for a proper and just trial. “Honble Supreme Court clearly directed that while furnishing the list of statements, documents and the material objects under Section 207/208 CrPC., the Magistrate should also ensure that a list of other materials (such as statements, or objects/documents seized, but not relied upon) should be furnished to the accused so as to ensure that in case the accused is of the view that such materials are necessary to be produced for a proper and just trial, she or he may seek appropriate orders under the Code of Criminal Procedure for their production during the trial,” the judge noted. “In the present case after the Court has taken the cognizance and is in the process of supplying documents, applications have been filed under Section 207 CrPC. wherein to ensure a fair trial, the impugned order has been passed by the learned Special Court keeping due regard to the fact that at that stage it was deciding neither the relevancy of the unrelied documents nor whether they were of sterling quality,” the order stated. The court observed that only when an accused is aware of a document, which has not been relied upon by the prosecution, he can bring it to the trial courts notice if the same is relevant and has a bearing on the case. It added that in the present case, the permission to conduct inspection was not in respect of those documents in relation to which CBI investigation was still pending and thus the CBIs apprehension that an inspection by the accused would hinder further probe is wholly unwarranted.

“Indubitably, while passing an order of inspection of unrelied upon documents, the court is bound to strike a balance between the competing interest of ensuring a fair trial to the accused as also maintaining the sanctity of further investigation,” the court stated. The investigating agency had opposed the inspection of documents on the grounds that the probe in the INX media case, in which the Chidambarams are accused, is still ongoing, and that it may result in evidence tampering.

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In its plea before the high court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had submitted that the INX Media case involved high level of corruption with wide ramifications on society, and while the accused have a right to a fair trial, the collective interest of society could not be impinged.

“A fair trial is not what the accused wants in the name of a fair trial but it must soothe the ultimate justice. Although, right to fair trial of the respondents/accused was not infringed, since all documents relied upon by petitioner (CBI) were provided to the respondents/accused, it had said.

The agency contended that the very essence of trial is to unearth the truth for which the court cannot assist the accused in search of a plausible defence.

The high court had on May 18 stayed trial proceedings in the case involving Chidambaram and his son.  It had also issued notice and sought responses of Chidambaram and others on the CBIs plea.

The agency had registered its case on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007 during Chidambarams tenure as finance minister.         Thereafter, the Enforcement Directorate had lodged the money laundering case. The Chidambarams are on bail in the case.


(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)

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