The Delhi High Court Tuesday dismissed the interim bail plea of alleged middleman Christian Michel in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, observing his apprehension that “he is likely to contact COVID-19 which may be detrimental to his health, is unfounded”.
“As regards the apprehension of the petitioner (Michel) being infected by COVID-19 pandemic, it may be noted that the petitioner is lodged in separate cell with only two other prisoners and thus, is not in a barrack or dormitory where there are number of prisons,” Justice Mukta Gupta said in her order passed on Monday.
The order further stated that it is not the case that any of the two inmates residing with the accused are suffering from COVID-19.
Michel, through his counsel Aljo K Joseph, sought an interim bail on the ground that his health condition was critical and incompatible with the current status of prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic. Joseph argued that the infection could have a lethal effect on his client, who is already suffering from serious pathologies.
Highlighting the Supreme Court’s March 16 order addressing difficulty in practicing social distancing in overcrowded prisons in the country, Michel in his plea said; “The applicant (Michel) is of 59 years of age and ill. The agedness and a pre-existing ill state of health will make the applicant’s body more susceptible to the said infection than any other ordinary prisoner with a normal health condition.”
It claimed that the Supreme Court has stressed on the imminent need for adoption of preventive steps to avoid the spread of coronavirus in prisons.
The court noted that “In view of the petitioner failing to qualify on three criterias laid down by the High Power Committee, i.e. being a foreign national, involved in more than one case not being on bail in others and the cases being under Prevention of Corruption Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the petitioner has not been released on bail.”
The High Powered Committee constituted under the Chairpersonship of Delhi HC’s Justice Hima Kohli has specifically excluded cases of foreign national, prisoners involved in more than one case and cases under PMLA.
“Thus, the petitioner is not entitled to be released pursuant to the suo moto directions of the Supreme Court, issued on March 23, 2020 as he does not follow these three criterias,” the CBI and ED argued in the court.
The court is already seized of the case regarding Michel’s bail applications, which were opposed by the CBI and the ED, on the ground that he was “brought to India with unprecedented difficulty and there is all likelihood of him fleeing from justice, if enlarged on bail”.
Earlier, a trial court had rejected his bail plea on two occasions last year, in February and in December.
“The applicant enjoys close proximity with certain influential and powerful persons and is likely to tamper with the evidence and influence witnesses,” both the agencies said in their replies before the High Court.
Michel, extradited from Dubai, was arrested by the ED on December 22, 2018. He was later arrested by the CBI in the case related to Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland deal. Presently, he is in judicial custody at the Tihar Jail since January 5, 2019.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines