AgustaWestland chopper scam: SC dismisses Christian Michel’s release petition | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

AgustaWestland chopper scam: SC dismisses Christian Michel’s release petition

ByAbraham Thomas
Mar 18, 2024 02:29 PM IST

The AgustaWestland scam, being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate, is estimated to be of about ₹3,700 crore

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition filed by AgustaWestland chopper scam accused Christian James Michel seeking release from jail claiming that he has already spent five years in jail, the maximum punishment under the offences for which he was extradited in 2018, and with the trial of the case yet to begin.

AgustaWestland chopper scam accused Christian Michel. (PTI File Photo)
AgustaWestland chopper scam accused Christian Michel. (PTI File Photo)

“How can you file a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution,” a bench headed by chief justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, said while refusing to entertain the petition.

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Appearing for Michel, advocate Aljo K Joseph told the court that his release application was rejected by the trial court on February 23 based on a top court judgment of February 7, 2023 that said Michel was not entitled to mandatory release as an undertrial on completion of maximum sentence as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), subsequent to his extradition, filed an additional chargesheet accusing him under Section 467 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which carries a maximum punishment of life term for forgery of any valuable document.

“You are aggrieved by this finding against you. According to you, we are wrong that Section 471 cannot be added. We have dealt with that in our order. You file a challenge to that order. But how do you come under Article 32?” observed the bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

In his petition before the top court, Michel said, “The liberty granted under the Constitution of India to the petitioner has been curtailed and he is illegally detained in custody after completing the maximum sentence.”

It was further stated that as on December 5, 2023, Michel has spent five years in prison for offences pertaining to deception and cheating under sections 415 and 420. He was extradited based on these charges from Dubai on December 4, 2018.

However, it was only later that the CBI added Section 467 of IPC against him by way of supplementary chargesheets filed in September 2020 and March 2022.

The AgustaWestland scam, being probed also by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), is estimated to be of about 3,700 crore. Michel, a British national, was accused of being the alleged middleman in the deal and was charged along with other accused under Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The trial in the case is yet to begin even as the ED and CBI have opposed his bail claiming him to be a “flight risk” and a person with “deep nexus and influence” in the bureaucracy.

The CBI told the top court in an earlier hearing that he is a “key link to unearth the modus operandi as there is ample evidence to link him with the commission of grave economic offence”.

The CBI has so far named former defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and four Indian Air Force (IAF) officers for allegedly favouring the firm in the controversial deal signed in 2010. Michel was named by the CBI in its September 2017 chargesheet, while the ED initiated probe into the money trail following the payment of kickbacks in the deal.

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