‘No merit’: SC refuses Christian Michel’s bail plea in AgustaWestland chopper scam

New Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to entertain the bail plea of British national and AgustaWestland chopper scam accused Christian Michel.

A bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala observed that Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), would not be applicable in the instant case and it will not allow Section 436A plea.

Section 436A of CrPC allows undertrials to be released on bail if they have undergone half the sentence of the maximum punishment that they can be sentenced to if convicted.

“We find no merit in the special leave petition,” said the bench, adding that this order would not come in the way of the petitioner moving the trial court for regular bail. The apex court was informed that Michel has been in custody for over 4 years.

During the hearing, the bench queried Michel’s counsel: “How would you assure that you would not be a flight risk?” and he replied that agencies had thrice visited his client in Dubai, where he had cooperated.

Advocate Aljo Joseph, representing Michel, contended all the co-accused who were extradited in connection with the same offence, have been granted bail, however his client has served half of the sentence.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the ED and the CBI, submitted that the allegations involve money laundering, illegal gratification, among others. However, the bench pointed out that no charge sheet has been filed in the matter and the probe as well as detention was still ongoing.

The bench queried: “How long will you keep him in custody ultimately, say something…. a particular time.”

It told Jain that it cannot be open ended from their side and there should be a time period to complete the probe. Jain replied that custody would be necessary till the letters rogatory (LR) are answered. The bench asked, “How long will the process of LRs continue?”

After hearing detailed arguments, the top court declined to entertain Michel’s bail pleas.

The apex court was informed that as per the extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), British nationals cannot be tried for offences apart from what he was extradited for.

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