The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a public interest petition demanding a court-monitored probe against scribes who were allegedly paid kickbacks in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter scam.
A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra asked the petitioner, journalist Hari Jaisingh, to provide a copy of the petition to the ministry of home affairs, Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate.
Jaisingh wants the agencies to submit a report to the top court in a sealed cover giving details of the status of the investigation, which the court said it will look into on the next hearing.
A commission of inquiry under the stewardship of a retired Supreme Court judge has been sought in the petition as it turns the spotlight on the alleged role of journalists in the scam.
Filed through advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, the petition alleged that “Finmeccanica (parent company of AgustaWestland) had invited a group of Indian journalists on a fully paid for trip to Italy.”
According to him, an individual in New Delhi acted as the company’s representative and was asked to be a “facilitator” to ensure “smooth disbursement of funds allocated for managing key Indian officials and several influential members of the media.”
It has also sought direction from the Centre to seek affidavits of “financial disclosures from the members of the media who have received funding and hospitality from foreign and domestic defence and other ancillary industries, and to make public this information and submit to the court on affidavit whether on these sums taxes have been paid or not.”
A proposal to acquire 12 helicopters for the use of VVIPs was cleared in 2010 by the Cabinet Committee on Security.
The decision was taken after a long process that involved change in some parameters, evaluation and negotiations. Air Force’s Communication Squadron was meant to use the helicopters. The deal was, however, later cancelled.