Agusta Westland Case: SC Declines to Hear Christian Michel’s Bail Plea

Christian Michel

The Supreme Court, on Monday, declined to entertain a fresh bail plea of Christian Michel James, an alleged middleman being investigated by the CBI and the ED in the alleged Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper scam cases related to the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters. It was argued that James cannot be charged under any other offenses apart from those mentioned in the extradition decree and should be granted the benefit of the doctrine of specialty. He was arrested in December 2018 after being extradited from Dubai.

“How can you file the Article 32 petition in this case?” questioned a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

Addressing the submission that James cannot be charged for other offenses not part of the extradition decree, the bench stated this had been previously addressed and it cannot go “ad nauseum.”

The counsel for the extradited accused highlighted that he has been in jail for the last five years, which could be the maximum sentence upon conviction.

On February 7 last year, the top court denied bail to James, rejecting the submission that he be released on the grounds of completing half of the maximum sentence in the cases.

The CJI, while writing the judgment, had stated James may pursue his remedy of regular bail before the trial court in the case.

James had sought bail under section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which allows a person to be released on bail upon completing half of the maximum sentence prescribed for the offense.

The accused had challenged the Delhi High Court order dated March 11, 2022, by which his bail pleas were dismissed in both the CBI and ED cases.

Dismissing the bail pleas in both the CBI and ED cases in 2021, a trial court had determined it was not a fit case for bail considering the overall facts and circumstances, the serious nature of the accusations, the gravity of the offense, and the conduct of the accused.

The CBI, in its charge sheet, alleged an estimated loss of 398.21 million euros (about Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer due to the deal signed on February 8, 2010, for the supply of 12 VVIP helicopters worth 556.262 million euros (around Rs 3,600 crore).

The ED, in its charge sheet filed in June 2016, alleged that James received 30 million euros (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland. He is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case, alongside Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

Recommended For You

About the Author: Nunnem Gangte