India’s former Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram has been granted bail 106 days after his dramatic arrest on corruption charges that he says are part of a government witch-hunt against political opponents.
Chidambaram, 73, a political veteran from the main opposition Congress party, was told on Wednesday to submit a bond of 200,000 rupees ($2,800), not make any public statements on the issue, and to surrender his passport.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Congress spokesman Sanjay Jha accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of a “malicious propaganda campaign” against Chidambaram.
“It is a case of political vendetta where the investigating agencies and prosecutors have deliberately harassed him and dragged the case on although Mr. Chidambaram had voluntarily made himself accessible all these years,” he said.
The Congress party – which welcomed the court decision, tweeting: “Truth finally prevails” – had described Chidambaram’s arrest in August by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s equivalent to the FBI, as a “shameless witch-hunt” by Prime Minister Nareedi Modis government.
Chidambaram, a wealthy lawyer from a land-owning family from southern Tamil Nadu state, served twice as a finance minister and once as a home minister during Manmohan Singh’s 2004-14 tenure as prime minister.
He is accused of receiving bribes, money-laundering and of illegally approving the acquisition of a telecommunications firm by a Malaysian company, allegations he denies.
His son, Karti Chidambaram, and several government officials are also being investigated over their role in the scandals when Singh’s Congress-led alliance was in power.
His arrest saw CBI officers scale the boundary wall of his upscale residence in central New Delhi before escorting him to their headquarters for questioning.
Journalist and political commentator Urmilesh said the government is “trying to capture” the state’s judicial and investigative institutions with their “political and executive might”.
“They are targeting not only opposition leaders but also those who are critical of this government, including writers and journalists,” he told Al Jazeera.