Supreme Court Dismisses Article 32 Petition By Christian Michel Challenging Custody In AgustaWestland Chopper Case

Anmol Kaur Bawa

18 March 2024 9:05 AM GMT

  • Supreme Court Dismisses Article 32 Petition By Christian Michel Challenging Custody In AgustaWestland Chopper Case

    The Supreme Court on Monday (March 18) refused to interfere in a Petition under Article 32 filed by British Arms Counsultant Mr Christian James Michel in a plea to seek bail. The court observed that the doctrine of speciality plea as raised by the accused in the Augusta Westland Chopper Scam had been sufficiently dealt with in the previous order of the court declining his bail application...

    The Supreme Court on Monday (March 18) refused to interfere in a Petition under Article 32 filed by British Arms Counsultant Mr Christian James Michel in a plea to seek bail.  The court observed that the doctrine of speciality plea as raised by the accused in the Augusta Westland Chopper Scam had been sufficiently dealt with in the previous order of the court declining his bail application under S 436A CrPC.  

    Mr Michel has been accused of money laundering, collusion, fraud, misappropriation and offering bribes to higher officials related to the VVIP Scam. 

    The bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra declined to entertain the petition. The CJI expressed, " How can you file a 32 petition in this case?

    Advocate Aljo Joseph, appearing for Michel relied upon Section 21 of the Indian Extradition Act 1962 to contend that the petitioner could not be charged under any other offences apart from that mentioned in the extradition decree, urging the benefit of the doctrine of speciality. 

    The relevant provision of the 1962 provides : 

    21. Accused or convicted person surrendered or returned by foreign State not to be tried for certain offences.--Whenever any person accused or convicted of an offence, which, if committed in India would be an extradition offence, is surrendered or returned by a foreign State, such person shall not, until he has been restored or has had an opportunity of returning to that State, be tried in India for an offence other than--

    (a) the extradition offence in relation to which he was surrendered or returned; or

    (b) any lesser offence disclosed by the facts proved for the purposes of securing his surrender or return other than an offence in relation to which an order for his surrender or return could not be lawfully made; or

    (c) the offence in respect of which the foreign State has given its consent.

    The CJI replied that the same argument was previously raised and the Court dealt with it in its order dated February 7, 2023, wherein the Supreme Court dismissed Michel's plea seeking bail under Section 436A of CrPC while granting him liberty to apply for a regular bail.  

    The petition was dismissed by the bench noting that the Court "Cannot go ad nauseum". 

    How  Had The Court Dealt With The 'Doctrine Of Speciality'? 

    The doctrine of Speciality, a legal principle recognised in the realms of international law limits the extraditing country (India herein) from prosecuting or punishing the person sought to be extradited only to the extent of the terms and offences agreed upon between the extraditing and the surrendering country (UAE in the present case). Any prosecution beyond the terms of the extradition treaty would be hit by the rule of speciality.  

    In the February 2023 order, the court ,while dealing with this aspect, referred to Article 17 of the Extradition Treaty between India and UAE which states : 

    β€œ1 The person to be extradited shall not be tried or punished in the requesting State except for the offence for which his extradition is sought or for offences connected therewith, or offences committed after his extradition, If the characterisation of the offence is modified during the proceedings taken against the person extradited, he shall not be charged or tried, unless the ingredients of the offence in its new characterisation, permit extradition in conformity with the provisions of this Agreement. 


    2. If the person extradited had the liberty and means to leave the territory of the State to which he was extradited, and he did not leave within thirty days subsequent to his final release or left during that period, but voluntarily returned, he may be tried for the other offences.”

    The Court analysed that as per the Treaty, the person extradited shall not be prosecuted by India except for the offences specified in the treaty or for offences connected therewith. 

    The extradition decree on Michel as executed between the two countries mentioned : 

    Whereas the case is related to the extradition of Christian James Michael, British citizen, to the Indian authorities on charge of "misuse of occupation or position, money laundering, collusion, fraud, misappropriation and offering illegal gratification". Whereas the merits of the extradition request are briefed in that the Indian authorities requested the UAE to extradite Christian James Michael, British citizen, on charge of misuse of position or job, money laundering, collusion, fraud, misappropriation and offering illegal gratification within the territory of the requesting country. An arrest warrant was issued by the court in the requesting state.

    Giving a conjoint reading of the offences mentioned in the decree with the interpretation of Article 17 of the Treaty, the Court concluded that besides the provisions of Sections 415 and 420 read with Section 120B IPC and Section 8 of the PC Act, the petitioner is alleged to have committed offences under Section 467 IPC which is punishable with upto life imprisonment.  

    It was held that, "In this backdrop, the provisions of Section 436A would not stand attracted in the present case."  

    Background 

    Michel was arrested in December 2018 after being extradited from Dubai. He is termed as a 'Middleman' for the alleged illegal transactions that took place in the VVIP chopper scam. 

    The CBI claimed an estimated financial loss to the treasury amounting to approximately Euro 398.21 million (roughly 2666 Crore) from a contract signed on the 8th of February, 2010, for procuring VVIP helicopters valued at Euro 556.262 million. 

    ED filed a chargesheet against Michel in June 2016, alleging that he received EUR 30 million (approximately Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland. 

    Michel filed the application seeking release from custody on the ground that the maximum sentence which can be awarded to him is 5 years and he has already undergone the complete sentence. 

    The judge rejected the application, stating that since Section 467 of the IPC (which mandates life imprisonment) was invoked by the CBI through a supplementary chargesheet, Michel's argument that he had already served the maximum period of detention under Section 415, Section 420 of the IPC, and Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act was not valid. 


    Case Details : CHRISTIAN JAMES MICHEL vs. CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION W.P.(Crl.) No. 000140 - / 2024

    Counsels For The Petitioner: Advocates  Aljo Joseph, Sriram Parakkat  and MS Vishnu Shankar

    Click Here To Read/Download Order

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