On Wednesday, the CBI arrested Karti, son of P.Chidambaram, at the Cheni airport on his arrival from the UK on charges of his having accepted a bribe of Rs 10 lakh, way back in 2007 when his father was the Union Fince Minister. What seems very likely is that this belated action is a way of diverting the attention of the tion from the embarrassing fact that Nirav Modi and his uncle were able to escape so easily after having defrauded the Punjab tiol Bank of over Rs 12,000 crore. If so, the very opposite seems to have happened—since people are more likely to make comparisons and talk about how easy it is for the well-connected ones to escape even after having committed far more serious crimes. Be that as it may, after his arrest at the arrival lounge of the Cheni airport, Karti was taken to Delhi and produced before a metropolitan magistrate. The court remanded Karti in CBI custody just for a day but later extended this by a few more days obviously in the interests of more sustained interrogation.
The FIR against Karti was registered by the CBI in May 2017 apparently on the basis of “source” information. It said that the media house INX Media had received Rs 305 crore in foreign direct investment although it had clearance to receive only Rs 4.62 crore, and that it approached Karti when the Income Tax department launched a probe. According to the FIR, Karti took a bribe of Rs 10 lakh to get clearance for the media house, which was owned at that time by Peter Mukerjea and his wife Indrani (now estranged from him) for the entire amount in 2007, when his father P.Chidambaram was Union Fince Minister.
The interesting and intriguing part of the episode is that Karti should have been arrested only now despite the fact that he has been responding to summonses in the past and turned up for questioning several times. However, CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal claims that he was “evasive in his replies and was not cooperating and gave incorrect statements with respect to the evidence collected by the CBI.” The obvious course of action would have been to arrest him when he was creating difficulties to the process of his interrogation instead of doing so now. There are reasons to believe that this may not have been the actual position considering that there is no record of Karti having refused to turn up for questioning. In fact, the Supreme Court had even permitted him to travel to the UK for his daughter’s admission to Cambridge University.
What seems rather obvious is that Chidambaram must have been fully aware of the reason for Karti having accepted a hefty bribe for getting a favour done for the Mukerjeas. The fact remains that INX Media was able to receive a foreign direct investment of Rs 305 crore when its entitlement was only Rs 4.62 crore—about 66 times the actual entitlement. And as Union Fince Minister, Chidambaram must have been aware of every detail of what his son had got the Fince Ministry into. Worse, since the deal went through, he must have given his consent, as the minister concerned to an irregular and ucceptable action (at least at that point of time). As such, this belated action taken against Karti must also take cognizance of the action that needs to be taken against a former minister for wrongdoing in order to favour his son. Hence it is to be seen whether the present government is brave enough to take pel action against a powerful former minister for crimes committed. The government must also take responsibility for people like Nirav Modi who maged to escape pel action despite having committed a far more serious crime. The government must evince the power and the willingness to conduct arrests not only in the arrival lounges of airports, but also in the departure lounges when it is imperative to do so.