INX Media’s jailed co-founder Indrani Mukerjea, the prime witness in the case against Congress politician P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram, wrote to then finance minister Arun Jaitley in July 2017, volunteering to testify against them, two top Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials familiar with the development said. It is only after this that the federal agency decided to speak to her.
This is contrary to speculation that the CBI may have persuaded her to record a statement to implicate the father-son duo in the case relating to alleged irregularities in government clearance given to INX Media to receive foreign investment to the tune of Rs 403.07 crore in 2007, when the senior Chidambaram was finance minister.
The testimony of Indrani Mukerjea who, together with her husband and INX Media co-founder Peter Mukerjea, is in jail for the alleged murder of her daughter Sheena Bora, is the crucial piece of evidence against P Chidambaram, now lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail after being arrested on August 21 in connection with the case, and his son.
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The sequence of events in the INX Media case, pieced together by HT, also suggests that it was only after Indrani Mukerjea wrote to Jaitley, who died in August, offering to testify against the father and son that the INX Media case gained momentum. HT has established that the letter was delivered to Jaitley and he forwarded it to CBI.
“I have never seen Indrani Mukherjea in my life except when CBI took me to confront with her in Byculla jail sometime around March 2018. That [confrontation] is video-recorded and CBI should release it. I don’t know her [Indrani] or anything about INX or FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board),” Karti Chidambaram said
Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, MP and senior advocate representing P Chidambaram said: “From the inception I have already argued, firstly that the statement by a person like Indrani, accused of a most heinous offence of brutally murdering her daughter, can hardly be treated as gospel truth spoken by a reliable witness as CBI is treating it. Secondly, the SC judgement a few weeks ago has dealt with this and makes it clear that it is not a sufficient ground to deny bail.”
Singhvi added: “It is obvious that a witness like Indrani would be under pressure to please her prosecutor, the CBI, and hope to gain browny points. And this could well be one of the reasons motivating her to make this statement not only 11 years after the incident but four years after her arrest for murder”.
One of the two officials cited above, requesting anonymity, said she wrote the letter to Jaitley on July 12, 2017, from Mumbai’s Byculla jail, after CBI registered a case on May 15 that year against Karti Chidambaram, the Mukerjeas, INX Media, and others.
P Chidambaram was not cited in the first information report, but he was named in a charge sheet filed on October 18 this year. Indrani is an “approver” in the case.
In her letter marked to Jaitley’s Kailash Colony residence and his North Block office, Indrani Mukerjea began by detailing her incarceration in connection with the murder of her daughter and claimed innocence as she sought his help to “get out of the mess”.
After mentioning the murder case in her letter to Jaitley, Indrani Mukerjea offered to help the CBI in the INX Media case.
She wrote, “On another note, regarding the FIR on INX Media in which Karti is the main accused, I have information implicating both KC and PC (referring to Karti Chidambaram and P Chidambaram) which will be useful to the CBI and I am willing to testify.
She added in the letter: “On both the matters relating to Sheena and INX Media (KC and PC), I seek your guidance as I consider you a friend as well as an individual who will not tolerate or allow any injustice and corruption in the system. Please advise me on the next steps so I can help you weed out malpractices and people responsible for such malpractices and also be able to prove my innocence regarding my daughter Sheena’s disappearance/probable demise in 2012. I wait to hear from you or your deputy.”
Her address in the letter is mentioned as Byculla Women’s prison.
It is only after she wrote this letter to Jaitley that CBI approached Indrani Mukerjea at Byculla prison on December 7, 2017 and recorded her first statement before the investigating officer under section 161 of the code of criminal procedure (CrPC).
She later recorded her statement under section 164 of CrPC before a magistrate on February 17, 2018 and gave evidence on payments made to Karti Chidambaram by INX Media for securing clearance in 2007 from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board for the overseas investment received by the broadcaster that was in excess of the approved amount.