Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Bail plea of James Michel in AgustaWestland case: Supreme Court ponders over liberty of foreign nationals

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday, while pondering over the question whether it was appropriate to completely deprive a foreign national of his liberty, sought the Counsels present in the courtroom to submit a note and assist the court in the matter. 

The Apex Court today heard the plea by Christian James Michel in connection with Agustawestland case, challenging Delhi High Court’s order of dismissing his bail pleas as he is facing investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Directorate of Enforcement (ED

The bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha heard the matter today.

 The bench questioned if it was appropriate to completely deprive Michel of his liberty on the ground of being a foreign national. The Court has also instructed the Counsels to submit a note to assist the court. 

The court has said that the matter will now be heard in the second week of January, 2023.

The CJI while hearing the case said what worries him the most in the case is the complexity of this trial, as many as 200 witnesses.

The CJI orally remarked and questioned how long do we keep him on the ground that he is a foreign national. Ordinarily if he was Indian national, the court would be inclined to grant bail.

The bail of Michel had been dismissed by the been by the Delhi High Court after the court deemed him to be a flight-risk.

Christian Michel was arrested by the ED in December 2018 and has been in custody ever since. He has applied for bail several times but all his applications were dismissed. Christian Michel is an alleged middleman who is being investigated by the ED as well as CBI in the VVIP Chopper Scam.

CBI has alleged that there was a loss of Rs 2666 crore to the exchequer in the VVIP Chopper deal and ED has alleged that Christian Michel received around Rs 225 crore from Agusta Westland during the deal.

The CBI had estimated the amount of bribes at US$33 million, transferred through bank accounts in the UK and UAE.

The Counsel for Michel named Aljo Joseph submitted that his case is covered under Section 436A of CrPC under which the maximum sentence of five years is decided and the man has already spent about tat time.

During the hearing today, Michel’s counsel Aljo Joseph submitted that submitted that his case is covered under Section 436A (maximum period for which an under trial prisoner can be detained) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Referring to the extradition treaty on the basis of which Michel was brought to India, it was submitted that a fugitive can only be tried for offences mentioned in the treaty.

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