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The Special CBI Court today directed Tihar Jail Authorities to move Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland case, from a high-security solitary cell in its Jail No. 2.
CBI Judge Arvind Kumar directed the Jail Authorities to shift Michel to Tihar’s Jail No. 1 or 3 or 4, while providing him with all other facilities as other inmates. The issue of “high security” has to be decided by the Jail Authorities, the Court further stated.
It nonetheless directed them to give reasons for providing the same.
“Let accused Christian Michel James be shifted to jail no. 1 or jail no. 3 or jail no. 4 and he shall be provided all facilities as provided to other co-prisoners, as per jail rule. Jail Authorities shall make the necessary assessment regarding any threat to the accused and shall take decision accordingly to keep him in a suitable cell.” , the order reads.
While directing Jail Authorities to move Michel from Jail No. 2 which is meant to accommodate convicts, Court relied upon Rule 53 of the Delhi Prisons (Admission, Classification, Separation..of Prisoners) Rules, 1988 to observe that unconvicted criminal prisoner need to be kept sperate from those who have been convicted.
The order was passed in Michel’s application against his confinement in a high-security cell in Jail No. 2.
In the application filed through advocates Aljo K Joseph, Sriram Parakkat and MS Vishnu Shankar it was submitted that Michel was shifted to the high-security cell “at the behest of external pressure“.
Arguing for Michel, Aljo Joseph claimed that Michel was purposely being punished for failing to take names of certain people during the interrogation. He alleged that the CBI officials who met Michel in Dubai told him,
“..if you are coming to India and you do not make required confessions. you are going to have a tough time in jail.“
This is exactly what is happening, he said.
The Tihar Jail Authorities informed the Court that Michel was moved to the high-security ward as a temporary measure in light of the Pulwama attacks.
The allegations made in the application were also rebutted by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Special Public Prosecutor DP Singh argued that the allegations were “mischievous and looked down upon Indian jails”.
In its reply filed to the application, CBI stated that to the best of its knowledge, the averments made in the application were “unfounded, baseless, and liable to be rejected.” It further contended that Michel was kept in the high-security cell as per jail rules.
You are making a crisis when it is not there, Singh said while specifically denying allegations of open defecation in the Tihar Jail.
“Till date, he(Michel) had no problem. Now in the highest (jail) facility, he has a problem. During the investigation, there was no complaint of misdeed. This is an effort to belittle the conditions of jail, which is absolute far from the truth“.
Replying to the denial, Advocate Joseph said,
“Let us go to the Jail with the prosecutor and see the condition. This is a contemptuous statement. Let there be an enquiry.“
CBI also submitted that a judicial enquiry into the allegation could not be initiated as the action was “taken/intended in good faith”, and was hence protected under Section 70 of the Delhi Prisons Act, 2000.
After a heated exchange between the counsel for both the sides, the Court directed Jail Authorities to move Michel to the Jail meant for undertrials.
Christian Michel is accused of having entered into as many as 12 contracts with AgustaWestland to legitimize the illicit commission/kickbacks amounting to Euro 42.27 million received on the procurement of VVIP helicopters by Government of India. Consequently, the ED also initiated proceedings in terms of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 against Michel.
After being extradited to India from Dubai, Michel was produced before the CBI Court on December 5 and sent to CBI custody for five days. On subsequent hearings, the custody was extended for another five days, and then for four more days. On December 22, he was sent to seven days’ ED custody by the CBI Court.
Read the order: