In a setback to the CBI probing alleged irregularities in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, former IAF chief S P Tyagi was granted bail Monday after 18 days in custody. In its order, the court of special CBI judge Arvind Kumar said the CBI had “failed to state how much cash was paid to accused and when it was paid” despite conducting an investigation for “3 years and 9 months”.
The pronouncement of the order had the Tyagi family in tears. They declined to comment, only saying that their “faith in the judiciary has been restored”. The former Chief of Air Staff was arrested by the CBI on December 9 for his alleged involvement in changing specifications for VVIP choppers, allowing AgustaWestland to participate in the bidding process.
The CBI had alleged that Tyagi received money and used his influence to change the service ceiling for the helicopters. It also alleged that the “bribe amount” had been transferred “through different companies” in the name of “consultancy services” to persons related to Tyagi.
The agency had opposed grant of bail to the former IAF chief, saying evidence was yet to be received from various countries and other witnesses. The court noted that Tyagi had joined the investigation for questioning several times prior to his arrest and raids had been conducted at his residence in 2013 where a number of documents had been seized.
“It has not been the contention of the CBI that accused had tampered with the evidence or influenced any witness since the time of lodging of FIR,” the court said. It also said that since Tyagi had retired from service in 2007, “the apprehension of CBI that he would influence the witnesses who had been subordinate to him during the tenure of his service appears unfounded”.
The court noted that the CBI had not been able to link the properties owned by the accused to any illegal gratification. “The correctness or otherwise of the allegation as to whether the accused has taken the kickbacks and in what manner he was connected to the same can only be looked into during the course of the trial,” it said.
The court asked Tyagi to submit a personal bail bond of Rs 2 lakh with one surety, and directed that he cannot leave the National Capital Region without prior permission of the court. He was also directed not to contact any witness in the case.
The court is yet to pronounce judgment on the bail pleas filed by the co-accused including S P Tyagi’s cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and advocate Gautam Khaitan, who have been alleged to be “middlemen’ in sourcing the money from foreign countries. Orders on their pleas are likely to be pronounced on January 4.