New Delhi: A Bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha fixed the bail plea of Christian Michael James in the VVIP chopper purchase cases on Tuesday as its board of cases was “heavy on Friday.”
James is accused of being a middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scam in which the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have lodged two separate cases.
“We will hear it on a non-miscellaneous day. On Friday, the board (cases listed for hearing during the day) is heavy. We will list on Tuesday,” the bench said. Earlier in May, the top court had sought responses from the CBI and the ED on the bail pleas.
The Rs 3,600-crore alleged scam relates to the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland. During the earlier hearing, the counsel for the accused had said the case was covered under section 436A of CrPC (maximum period for which under trial prisoner can be detained) and he has undergone 50 per cent of the sentence for the offence which he is alleged to have committed.
The accused was extradited from Dubai and has been in custody since then and the investigation is still not complete, his counsel had said. The lawyer had said that Michel’s case is that under sections 8 and 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the maximum sentence is five years and he has undergone nearly four years.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the probe agencies, had said that with great difficulty, the investigating agency has got his custody, and section 436A will not apply for the ED proceedings. He said Michel is a resident of the United Kingdom and was extradited from Dubai.
Michel has challenged the Delhi High Court order of March 11 by which his bail plea was dismissed. Seeking his release in both the CBI and ED cases, he had said he was not required for the purpose of investigation and expressed his willingness to cooperate with the probe.
Dismissing the bail pleas in both the CBI and ED cases last year, a trial court had said that considering the overall facts and circumstances, the serious nature of accusations, the gravity of the offence, and the conduct of the accused, it did not consider it to be a fit case for grant of bail. Michel was extradited from Dubai in December 2018 and subsequently arrested by the two investigating agencies.
The CBI, in its charge sheet, has alleged an estimated loss of 398.21 million euros (about Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer due to the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010, for the supply of VVIP choppers. The ED, in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he had received about Rs 225 crore from AgustaWestland. He is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case. The other two are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.