New Delhi, May 18
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought response from the CBI and ED on a bail plea filed by Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.
A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud noted that Michel has already undergone close to four years in prison. "We will have to look (at Michel's bail plea) from that perspective as well", said the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and P.S. Narasimha.
The top court issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED), and scheduled the matter for further hearing in the second week of July.
Michel's counsel contended that their client's case is covered under Section 436A of the CrPC (maximum period for which an under-trial prisoner can be detained).
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) S.V. Raju, representing the ED, submitted that Michel has not been exonerated anywhere, and Section 436A is not applicable to offences, which are under investigation by the ED. The Delhi High Court had earlier dismissed Michel's bail plea, after the court deemed him to be a flight-risk.
Michel's counsel contended that the investigation has not been completed so far and pointed out that his client was also in custody in Dubai. "I have undergone the maximum sentence as per the provisions…I have undergone 3 years and 6 months as of now and before extradition," said the counsel, adding that his client has never absconded.
It was submitted before the top court that Michel's presence was required in Italy since charges have been framed against him there. Raju replied that he is not even a party.
Michel, a British citizen, was extradited to India on December 5, 2018 from the UAE. On his arrival in India, he was arrested by the CBI and days later, arrested by the financial probe agency, the ED. Since then, he has been lodged in judicial custody at Tihar Jail. Various courts have rejected the bail petition of Michel on a number of occasions.
On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore.