Retired bureaucrats, who were at top positions in the Ministry of Finance during 2007 and 2008 and played a crucial role in the clearances given by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), are under the scanner of multiple investigative agencies including the CBI, the ED and the SFIO, for their alleged acts of omission and commission to help Karti Chidambaram, the son of P. Chidambaram, who headed the ministry at the time.
Highly placed sources said that these bureaucrats will be summoned for questioning soon and will be asked to explain their role vis-à-vis the instructions issued by P. Chidambaram in giving clearances not just to INX Media, but other companies, overruling the fact that they did not fulfil the laid down criteria. The questioning of these senior officers is being seen as a step towards calling Chidambaram for questioning, sources said.
According to them, the father-son duo allegedly not only helped INX Media in getting the required permission but also helped multiple other companies in circumventing the law.
All these charges have been vehemently denied by relatives and friends of Chidambaram, who have described the developments as “vendetta politics”.
It is worthwhile to mention that during the Financial Year 2006-2007, the FIPB conducted a total of 18 meetings in which 423 items were considered and 326 proposals were approved. The FDI inflow involved was approximately Rs 39,622 crore.
In 2007-2008, 21 meetings were held in which 510 items were considered and 340 proposals were approved. The FDI inflow involved was approximately Rs 35,649.917 crore. During the Financial year 2008-2009, a total of 19 meetings were held in which 645 items were considered and 397 proposals were approved. The FDI inflow involved was approximately Rs 6,1972.7441 crore.
The 25 years old FIPB, which was abolished in 2017, was a single window clearance for FDI proposals and comprised secretaries from Department of Economic Affairs, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Small Scale Industries, Department of Revenue, Department of Commerce, Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. The maximum say in the decision given by the FIPB, the source said, apart from the Finance Minister was of the Secondary, DEA, a position that was quite coveted by bureaucrats.
In May 2007, Duvvuri Subbarao, a 1972-batch IAS officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre, was appointed as Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) after the retirement of Finance Secretary Ashok Jha. Prior to the assignment, Dr Subbarao was working as Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.
In September 2008, Ashok Chawla, a Gujarat-cadre IAS officer of the 1973 batch, was appointed Secretary to the Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance. Earlier, he was Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs, from April 2005 to January 2007.
Later on, Subba Rao, went on to become Governor of RBI, while Chawla became Chairman of the Competition Commission of India. He was later appointed as the Chairman of the National Stock Exchange in May 2016.