Supreme Court Rejects Bail Plea of Christian Michel James In AugustaWestland VVIP Helicopter Scam
The Supreme Court today rejected the bail plea preferred by Christian Michel James, one of the accused in the infamous Augusta Westland Scam relating to the procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters by the Government of India.
“It has emerged that bail is being sought under Section 436A of CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) and the provisions of Section 436A would not be applicable in this case. We find no merit in the Special Leave Petition (SLP). Dismissed”, said a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narsimha and Justice JB Pardiwala.
The Apex Court, however, clarified that its dismissal “order shall not come in the way of moving the trial court applying for regular bail”.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain appeared on behalf of the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) in the present matter.
Advocate-on-Record Aljo K. Joseph, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, submitted before the Court that in view of the Section 436A CrPC, the accused may be released on bail as he has already undergone 4 years and 2 months in undertrial custody, while the maximum punishment provided under Section 420 of IPC (Indian Penal Code) is 7 years and under (unamended, prior to 2014) Section 8 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is 5 years.
Section 436A CrPC provides that a person “undergone detention for a period extending up to one-half of the maximum period of imprisonment specified for that offence” shall be released by the Court on his personal bond with or without sureties.
The Court rejected the application of Section 436A CrPC in view of punishment of life imprisonment provided under Section 467 (Forgery of valuable security, will, etc.) IPC.
Further, he objected to the charging of the accused for offences not specified in the extradition decree in view of Section 21 of the Extradition Act,1962 which provides that person shall not be tried for an offence other than the extradition offence in relation to which he has been surrendered or returned.
However, the above submission did not appeal to the Court in view of Article 17 of the Extradition Treaty between UAE and India which provides that the person extradited can only be tried for offences for which he has been extradited and for offences connected therewith.
In September 2017, the CBI filed a supplementary chargesheet and is carrying out further investigation under 173(8) CrPC in the scam.
In Mar 2022, the Delhi High Court rejected regular bail application stating, "....applicant, having no roots in the Indian society, is a flight risk. Accordingly, the present bail application is dismissed"
On the complaint of the Ministry of Defence, in 2013 an FIR under Section 120B (Criminal Conspiracy) and Section 420 (Cheating) under the IPC, and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the accused Christian Michel James and others.
The Naples and Rome's Office of Public Prosecutors found that AWIL ( Augusta Westland International Ltd.) had paid bribes disguised as payment to various firms for engineering jobs Against the selection of the Technical Evaluation Committee for three helicopters, only two were certified to qualify for the mandatory altitude requirement of 6000 metres.
The Government of India in 2014 repudiated the contract when the allegations of bribery in the procurement process of VVIP helicopters came to light. In 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the accused against the decision of a Co-ordinate Bench of the Delhi High Court which denied him interim bail.
The Special CBI Court also dismissed multiple bail applications of the accused in view of the serious nature of the allegations
Cause Title- Christian Michel James v Central Bureau of Investigation