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The Supreme Court today directed the accused in AgustaWestland case, Christian Michel, to approach the Delhi high Court for interim bail.
The Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah today without expressing any views on the merits of the case directed Christian Michel to move the High Court for interim bail. Michel had approached the Apex Court for interim bail in light of prevalent conditions owing to COVID-19 pandemic.
Michel had first approached the Delhi High Court seeking interim bail in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The matter was mentionined before the Registrar concerned of the High Court but was not taken up for hearing and Michel was directed to wait given that a High Powered Committee was scheduled to hold a meeting to identify prisoners who could be released in order to decongest the jails.
Michel's case was not one of those considered by the committee for grant of bail to decongest the jails in conformity with the Supreme Court's order of March 23. This led Michel to approach the Apex Court seeking bail claiming that he falls within the class of people more vulnerable to COVID-19.
In his interim bail plea submitted through Advocates Sriram Prakkat, Vishnu Shankar and Aljo Joseph, Michel has submitted that his health condition is very critical and incompatible with the current prison status under the Covid-19 pandemic.
The infection, the plea states, could have a lethal effect on Michel who is already suffering from serious pathologies.
The bail plea points out an order passed by the Supreme Court on March 16, addressing the difficulty in practicing social distancing in overcrowded Indian prisons. The plea claims that the Supreme Court has stressed on the imminent need for adoption of preventive steps to avoid contagion of the aforesaid Covid-19 virus among the prisoners.
In view of the above, Michel asserts that he needs to live in an environment where the risk of contagion is lesser and social distancing can be effectively practiced.
Stating that he has been in custody since the date of his arrest, Michel has argued that his further incarceration under these circumstances, would amount to violation of human rights.
Christian Michel is accused of having entered into as many as twelve contracts with AgustaWestland to legitimize the illicit commission/kickbacks amounting to 42.27 Euro million received on the procurement of VVIP helicopters by the Government of India.
After being extradited to India from Dubai, Michel was produced before the CBI Court on December 5 and sent to CBI custody. On December 22, he was sent to seven days’ ED custody by the CBI Court.
Christian Michel was finally sent to judicial custody on January 5 and remained in Tihar Jail ever since. His application seeking bail is presently pending before the High Court.