The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has found a prima facie case for prosecuting four retired and serving bureaucrats who had served under the Ministry of Finance to issue a sanction to prosecute in the corruption case involving INX Media in which Congress leader P Chidambaram and his son are also in the dock.
According to the reports, the CVC had advised the Department of Economic Affairs to grant sanction for prosecuting four retired and serving bureaucrats, including former NITI Aayog CEO Sindhushree Khullar, former secretary of the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Anup K Pujari and current principal secretary in the Himachal Pradesh government, Prabodh Saxena for their involvement in the INX media corruption case.
The CBI had earlier sought sanction for prosecution against four former officers, including three IAS officers, working in the Finance Ministry in the INX Media case involving charges of bribery against former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and son Karti.
These officers were then working at the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) had illegally approved the FIPB clearance to INX Media. Khullar was then additional secretary in the DEA and was earlier OSD to P Chidambaram between 11 April 2004 and 11 September 2008. Pujari was the joint secretary from 29 September 2006 to 30 September 2010 and Saxena served as the director of the department between 2 April 2008, and 13 July 2010.
The CVC had also sought sanction to prosecute Rabindra Prasad, the under-secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs during the period in question.
Reportedly, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is looking into the role of few officials of the finance ministry including the four bureaucrats in connection with the FIPB approvals granted to INX Media. The FIPB, which functions under the Department of Economic Affairs, at its board meeting on 18 May 2007, had allegedly recommended the proposal of INX Media Pvt Ltd for the inflow of foreign direct investment up to Rs.4.6 crore while clearly stating that downstream investment in INX News will require a separate FIPB approval. However, violating the approval, INX Media had made a downstream investment of 26 per cent in the capital of INX News Pvt Ltd without this fresh FIPB approval.
The CBI had filed an FIR on May 15, 2017, against the alleged irregularities in FIPB clearance to INX Media for receiving overseas funds to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when P Chidambaram was the finance minister in the UPA government.
The CBI had alleged that the concerned officers of the FIPB unit of the Ministry of Finance, by virtue of the influence exercised over them by Karti Chidambaram, not only ignored the serious illegality on the part of INX Media on both counts but also deliberately embarked on showing undue favour to the INX Group by abusing their official position.
Karti Chidambaram, who is facing investigation in a number of cases including money laundering, has been charged in cases like INX Media case and Aircel Maxis case and is facing probe from the central agencies. P Chidambaram has also been facing an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the Aircel Maxis case.
Karti was arrested in February 2018 by the CBI in the INX Media case. CBI had accused him of receiving a bribe of Rs 3.5 crores from the Peter and Indrani Mukherjee owned INX Media Pvt Ltd. INX Media was later named as 9X. However, he was later granted bail.