The Supreme Court on Monday restored a CBI lookout circular against Karti Chidambaram, son of senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram, to prevent him from going abroad and asked him to approach the central probe agency.
The apex court, in the process, put on hold Madras High Court's August 10 stay on the lookout circular issued against Karti Chidambaram, who is facing a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board approvals.
The top court made it clear that Karti Chidambaram would not leave the country till he cooperated in investigation to the satisfaction of the investigating agency.
"You appear (before the investigating agency), and satisfy them," Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar told senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, asking him to give a date when his client would like to be questioned.
"Give a date. If he is in Delhi, he will be questioned in Delhi. If he is in Chennai, he will be questioned in Chennai," the Chief Justice said.
The apex court order came on a petition by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which contended that the High Court had no territorial jurisdiction to entertain the plea and stay the lookout notice as the matter is before the Special CBI court in Delhi.
Staying the August 10 order, a bench of Chief Justice Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud directed for further hearing on August 18.
"We will say nothing but stay the High Court order," the bench told Subramanium as he sought to assure the bench that Karti Chidambaram would not be running away from investigation.
"You can take it from me that there will be no running away, I say it voluntarily," Subramanium said.
Not accepting the plea for continuation of stay on the lookout circular, the Chief Justice Khehar told the senior counsel: "We had a very bad experience when we allowed a person to go abroad and he never came back."
"First, you show your bona fides by going to the Investigating Officer", the Chief Justice said.
"The question is he is required to participate in the investigation and all that lookout notice says is don't travel abroad."
The agency had told the court that the lookout notice was only to prevent the son of former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram from leaving the country.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, said the FIR was filed against Karti Chidambaram and others on May 15 and searches carried out the next day.
The FIR alleges criminal conspiracy (Section 120B) and cheating (Section 420) of the Indian Penal Code.
The agency also invoked the Prevention of Corruption Act's Section 8 [taking recourse to corrupt or illegal means, to influence public servant], Section 13(2) [punishment for criminal misconduct by a public servant] and Section 13(1)(d) [abusing position by public servant for pecuniary advantage].
The agency said Karti Chidambaram was issued summons on June 15 to appear before the Investigating Officer on June 29 and the lookout circular issued the very next day to immigration authorities at airports.
Subramanium contended that at no stage had Chidambaram shied away from participating in the investigations but had moved the High Court for quashing of the FIR and stay on the lookout circular.
He said that on July 21, when the matter was heard by the High Court, Chidambaram and the Investigating Officer were both present in court.
"Your being in the court does not exempt you from going to the Investigating Officer," the Chief Justice told Subramanium.
"Can't you go to the Investigating Officer to ask when can I come (to be questioned)," Chief Justice Khehar added.