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Feb 12, 2018 09:42 PM IST | Source: PTI

Madras HC to pass order on Karti Chidambaram's travel plea on February 16

The CBI today claimed in the Madras High Court it has got leads on the "money trail" in an alleged corruption case against Karti Chidambaram leading to the UK and other European nations and there was "real danger" that his visit there would result in tampering with "incriminating" evidence.

The CBI today claimed in the Madras High Court it has got leads on the "money trail" in an alleged corruption case against Karti Chidambaram leading to the UK and other European nations and there was "real danger" that his visit there would result in tampering with "incriminating" evidence.

The CBI made the submission while opposing a miscellaneous petition filed by Karti, son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, seeking permission to travel to the UK and France this month and next month for his business activities.

The first bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose, which heard for four hours the arguments by the counsel for the CBI and Karti Chidambaram, said it would pronounce its order on the travel plea on February 16.

Earlier, Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan, appearing for the CBI, submitted that during the probe into the case, the agency got leads of money trail of the alleged offence reaching the shores of UK and other European nations. "There is a real and present danger that his (Karti Chidambaram's) presence in the countries would result in tampering with incriminating evidence present against him," he contended.

The bench also adjourned to March 3 the main petition challenging the validity of two Look Out Circulars (LOCs) issued against Karti Chidambaram in the INX Media case and directed the CBI to file its counter by February 25. Karti Chidambaram has filed the miscellaneous petition in compliance with a January 31 directive of the Supreme Court to approach the high court for relief.

He sought permission to travel to the UK and France between February 15 and 28, and again between March 20 and 31. He has been restrained from leaving India with the issuance of the LOCs by the Bureau of Immigration and the Foreigner Regional Registration Officer at the CBI's request last year.

The LOCs were earlier stayed by a single judge bench of the high court on a petition by Karti Chidambaram. On a special leave petition filed by the CBI, the Supreme Court had stayed the single judge's order.

On January 31, it had remanded the matter back to the high court. When the matter came up for hearing today, senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, representing Karti Chidambaram, contended that his client had already appeared before the CBI for inquiry and had assured cooperation with the probe.

This apart, the petitioner and his family were before the court and he was not a fugitive against whom LOCs could be issued, he said adding Karti Chidambaram had no intention to flee the country. "There is no justification for the apprehension that he would not come back. He has his roots here. Why won’t he come back?" he added.

The entire family had only one property abroad and it had clearly submitted before the apex court through an affidavit that if the CBI could point out one undisclosed property belonging to them, it was ready to transfer the same to the government, he said.

Opposing the arguments, Rajagopalan said: "He is seeking permission for a business trip. If it is for any emergency or medical reasons, the agency would not have objected to it. "But when it comes to his private interest and interest of the probe, the latter prevails. Moreover, his business affair is the subject matter of the probe," he submitted.

Further, he argued that the lookout circular was valid only for three more months and probably the CBI would also complete the investigation by that time.

The petitioner could very well plan his travel after such time, the ASG said. Rajagopalan also submitted that Karti Chidambaram returning to India was not the primary issue. "There is something more to it.... We could not understand the urgency in the trip, he can wait till the probe is completed," he said.

In his miscellaneous petition, Karti Chidambaram has submitted that the Supreme Court had earlier permitted him to travel to the UK in November last year after he appeared before the CBI in connection with the case. He said his company Totus Tennis Ltd was engaged in sports business and its market was the UK and Europe.

The petitioner said he has to attend meetings related to the business of Totus, including organising tennis tournaments and training budding talents, and hence travelling to the UK and France has become imperative.
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