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'Foreign Lawyers Not Entitled To Interview Prisoner As Legal Advisor' CBI Court Dismisses Christian Michel's Plea

24 Feb 2020 5:17 PM GMT
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A Special CBI Court in Delhi on Monday dismissed the application filed by Christian Michel, accused in Agusta Westland scam, seeking permission for allowing legal interviews with his foreign lawyer.

The Court held that the Delhi Prison Rules 2018 only permitted legal practitioners within the meaning of Advocates Act 1961 to have legal interviews with prison inmates. The Supreme Court's ruling in the 2018 case Bar Council of India v A K Balaji that foreign lawyers are not entitled to have litigation or non-litigation practise in India was also referred to by the Court.

"It is clear from the bare reading of aforesaid rules that Legal Practitioners registered under the Advocates Act, 1961 are permitted to meet the accused/ have legal interviews as per the aforesaid Jail Rules. So far as foreign lawyers are concerned, the Advocates Act, 1961 do not recognize or permit foreign lawyers to practice in India in the litigation side. 

 The aforesaid rules make it clear that foreign lawyers are not entitled to have legal interviews with the inmate/prisoner of Tihar Jail, as legal Advisor", said Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar of Rouse Avenue Courts in the order.

In the application, Michel sought permission to allow consultation with Italian lawyer Ms. Rosemary Patrizzi by stating that it was necessary for conducting the cases which he was facing in foreign jurisdictions.

The Court held that Ms Rosemary Patrizzi cannot be permitted to have interview with Michel in the capacity of legal advisor. The Court also noted that Michel was already being represented by three Indian lawyers - Advocates Sriram Parakkat, MS Vishnu Shankar, Nayan Maggo.

The Court further noted that no detail of cases pending outside India, regarding which the accused want to have discussion with the foreign lawyer, were mentioned in the application.

However, the Court said that Rosemary Patrizzi can meet Michel in the capacity as a friend as per jail rules. She was already given permission to have such a meeting once, on February 12, 2019.

The accused had moved another application seeking permission to make ISD calls. However, it was not pressed by his lawyers in view of the fact that this issue was under the consideration of Delhi High Court. 

Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the VVIP chopper scam involving AgustaWestland company. The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

The CBI has alleged there was an estimated loss of Euro 398.21 million (about Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth Euro 556.262 million. The ED, in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he received EUR 30 million (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.

He was arrested by Enforcement Directorate following his extradition from Dubai in December 2019 and has been under custody ever since.

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