The Delhi High Court has refused to grant interim bail to Christan Michel, who is charged with money laundering in the Augusta Westland case.
While denying his plea for interim bail, the Single Bench of Justice Mukta Gupta noted that Michel's apprehension of catching COVID19 virus due to the overcrowding of prison and his vulnerable age is unfounded.
The court noted:
'As regards the apprehension of the petitioner being infected by Covid-19 pandemic, it may be noted that the petitioner is lodged in separate cell with only two other prisoners and thus, is not in a Barrack or dormitory where there are number of prisons. It is not the case of the petitioner that any of the two inmates residing with him are suffering from Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, the apprehension
of the petitioner also because of the vulnerable age and overcrowding in jail that he is likely to contact Covid-19 which may be detrimental to his health, is unfounded.'
The court further went on to note that since even after filing of the charge sheet by the CBI and complaint by ED, inquiry is pending against the Petitioner, granting him bail at this stage would not be warranted.
Michel had moved a plea for interim release on medical grounds after the decision of the Supreme Court in a suo moto case, wherein directions were given for the release of prisoners who have been charged with offences punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or less, to contain the spread of COVID19.
Arguing for interim bail, Michel submitted that he has low immunity and he's almost 59 years old, which makes him vulnerable to the spread of COVID19.
He had further contended that the sanctioned strength of the prisoners of Tihar Jail is 10000 whereas presently, around 17000 prisoners are lodged therein. Thus, because of overcrowding and social distancing not being maintained, he is prone to catching coronavirus.
Opposing the bail, the CBI argued that the High Powered Committee led by Justice Hima Kohli has specifically excluded cases of foreign nationals, prisoners involved in more than one case and cases under PMLA.
Thus, the Petitioner is not entitled to be released pursuant to the suo moto directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court dated 23rd March, 2020 as he does not follow the criteria.
On the issue of overcrowding, CBI informed the court that the Petitioner is lodged in a Cell with only two other inmates and all facilities have been provided to him. Hence, there being no over-congestion, the Petitioner is not entitled to interim bail on this ground also.
It was further informed by the agency that in Tihar Jail, every prisoner has been screened to check whether he is Covid 19 positive or not and no prisoner till date has been found to be suffering from Covid 19. The prisoners now being arrested are also screened before being admitted in jail and are lodged separately so as to not mingle with the prisoners already lodged in jail.
In order to deny interim bail to Michel, the court took into consideration the fact that he has not been in the UK for the last 6-7 years and had to be extradited from Dubai after an inquiry. On knowing about his arrest in Italy, he had fled to Dubai. Therefore, he poses a flight risk and also has no roots in the society.
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