Michel's bail plea decision to be announced on February 16 in AgustaWestland scam
A Delhi court on Wednesday reserved its order on the bail plea of Christian Michel, arrested in connection with an alleged scam in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, for February 16. Special judge Arvind Kumar, after hearing both the parties, directed them to file short written arguments in the case by February 15.
During the hearing, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the ED opposed Michel's bail plea, saying the court has already taken cognisance of the chargesheet in the case and the accused cannot seek bail at this juncture. Advocate D P Singh, appearing for the agency, said no question of default bail arises under Section 167 and the investigation, in this case, was at a very crucial stage.
The counsel appearing for Michel sought bail on the ground that the chargesheet against him was not filed within the stipulated 60-day period under section 167 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). "The submission made by the CBI is that they are at a crucial point of the investigation but bail is the rule and so provision of 167 has to be extended to me.
"Many of the accused have not yet been arrested. Even the main accused has not been arrested. No application for extradition has been filed against the main accused. Therefore the investigation cannot be completed," said Michel's counsel. Michel's counsel also raised the issue of letters rogatory (letters of request written by a court to a foreign one for judicial assistance).
They said the letter rogatory issued by India to Italy and Switzerland with regard to AgustaWestland case asking for documents have been "rejected outrightly" by both the courts. "The Italian court has outrightly refused it whereas the court in Switzerland has said that they do not have the jurisdiction," Michel's counsel submitted.
However, Singh objected saying that not only have the foreign courts responded to the letters rogatory but they have already been filed in the court and there are more to follow. "My friend has been prompted very strongly that we (agency) have nothing. 25 documents that came on letters rogatory from Italy have already been filed. Further will be filed supplementarily," Singh said.
At this point, Michel's Italian lawyer-friend Santrolli Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos interrupted Singh's submissions to which he said, "do not address across the bar, please. I don't know what is there in Italy but in India, we do not address across the bar". The agencies had on Tuesday opposed Michel's bail plea, saying he was accused of serious economic offences and there was ample evidence against him to prove his guilt.
The CBI had said Michel was a British national and has no roots in India and there was "every likelihood that if he was granted bail, he may abscond from India, evading the process of law and may not return to face the trial." It had said that the agency was taking all possible steps to conduct an effective and fair further investigation which would be hampered if he is released on bail.
Michel, extradited from Dubai, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on December 22 last year. On January 5, Michel was sent to judicial custody in the ED case. He is also lodged in judicial custody in the CBI case related to the scam. Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.
(With inputs from agencies.)
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