AgustaWestland : CBI Court Issues Notice On Bail Application Moved By Christian Michel

AgustaWestland : CBI Court Issues Notice On Bail Application Moved By Christian Michel

The accused in the Agusta Westland case, Chirstian James Michel, has moved the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court seeking regular bail under Section 437/439 of CrPC read with section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

Special CBI Judge, Arvind Kumar on Wednesday, issued notices to the CBI and Directorate of Enforcement (ED), agencies that are investigating the matter.

The accused emphasized on the principle "bail is a rule and jail is an exception" while stating that he had been in custody for 375 days, including the 254 days in Indian custody and the remaining in Dubai Jail. "The applicant was in custody during the extradition proceedings in Dubai from 11th June 2018 to 30th July, 2018 (for 50 days) and again he was arrested on 20th September 2018 and was extradited to India on 4th December 2018 (for 76 days). The Applicant is in custody ever since then till date", read the bail application.

The accused was charged for illegal dealings in the matter of procurement of 12 VVIP Helicopters from M/s Agusta Westland, UK, under Sections 120-B r/w Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 7, 8, 9, 12, 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. He was denied bail by the trial court, vide order dated 16.02.2019, on the ground that the investigation was ongoing and was at a critical stage.

Thereby the present bail application in the matters captioned "CBI v. S. P. Tyagi" and "Directorate of Enforcement v. Gautam Khaitan & Ors." was moved by the Applicant-accused on the following grounds:

1. The case was being investigated by the CBI for more than five years. The aforementioned agencies had filed four complaints against him without discovery of any new incriminating material and none of the complaints specifically alleged any money laundering committed by him. Reliance was also placed on Dataram Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2018 (3) SCC 22, wherein it was held that "…a strong case should be made out for placing that person in judicial custody after a charge sheet is filed".

2. He had undergone almost 600 hours of custodial interrogation with both the agencies and ever since he was remanded to judicial custody, only one application was moved by the investigating agencies to interrogate him. This clearly indicated that investigation of the Applicant was over and no useful purpose would be served by keeping him in further incarceration.

3. He had explained to the ED and given in writing the nature of work done by him for M/s Agusta Westland and the agencies could not produce any corroborating evidence to disprove the statements given by him.

4. Out of the 38 accused persons in the matter, one accused namely Rajeev Saxena became approver and none of the evidence given by him goes against the Applicant.

5. Most of the accused named by the CBI in the charge sheet were already enlarged on bail.

6. He had already been tried by the Court of Busto Arsizio, Italy on all the facts described in the CBI application. The Indian Ministry of Defence was also a litigant party in that matter through the Declaration of the Constitution of the Civil Party. In fact, the Indian authorities had accepted the Italian jurisdiction therein and had renounced its own jurisdiction. However, despite being a party to the Italian proceedings, the Indian Embassy initiated proceedings for the same facts and against the same defendants in India and subsequently, the Applicant was extradited to India from UAE. Notably, the Italian Court had acquitted the Applicant in the said proceedings. This order of acquittal was also confirmed by the Court of Appeal of Milan and the Apex Court of Italy. Thus it was submitted that, "as the Applicant/accused herein is being tried on the same facts and evidences in India, as was done in the Italian Courts, no prima facie case is made out against the Applicant". Based on the aforesaid, reliance was placed on the Supreme Court's verdict in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273, asserting that arrest should not be made in a routine and cavalier manner or on a mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person.

7. He also cited medical reasons and submitted that he shall be available to join the investigation and not tamper with evidence or influence the witnesses.

The bail application was filed through advocates Aljo K Joseph, Sriram Parakkat and Vishnu Shankar.