In what may lead to a confrontation between the CBI and the Law Ministry, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran has cautioned against questioning Goa Governor B V Wanchoo and West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan in the VVIP helicopter case, while the agency has said that his opinion is not binding on it.
The CBI wanted to record the statements of the two Governors in connection with its probe into the alleged payment of Rs 360 crore as bribe in the helicopter deal. But Parasaran has cautioned the CBI against questioning them, even as witnesses, pointing out that they enjoy constitutional immunity. He has said that Wanchoo and Narayanan can be questioned only after they relinquish their constitutional posts.
A senior CBI officer maintained that the two Governors can be questioned as “witnesses”. CBI director Ranjit Sinha is planning to hold discussions with the agency’s legal wing. The agency claimed that its probe in the case is suffering due to delay in questioning of the two Governors.
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Parasaran has said that their questioning, even as witnesses, in a criminal case could “aid” their prosecution later. The CBI had sought the law ministry’s opinion two months back.
Narayanan, then the National Security Adviser, and Wanchoo, then head of the elite Special Protection Group, were reported to have participated in the meetings where specifications for the helicopters were changed, allowing AgustaWestland to enter the race. The deal has since been scrapped.
Meanwhile in Italy, prominent Indian industry leader Ratan Tata has been listed as a defence witness in the ongoing case into the VVIP chopper deal bribery scandal.
Regular hearings of the case are in progress and among those listed as a witness for a hearing on May 29 is Tata, whose company had a co production agreement with AgustaWestland. When contacted, Ratan Tata’s spokesperson declined to comment and it is unclear whether he would travel to Italy for the hearing.
Also listed to appear on May 29 is former British Defence Minister Geoff Hoon who had joined Finmeccanica.