New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea of Christian Michel James, an alleged middleman arrested in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam cases, seeking interim bail on the grounds of risk of contracting coronavirus in Tihar jail.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai, which took up the interim bail plea through video conferencing, said that as per the criteria fixed by high powered committee constituted by government in pursuance of directions of apex court, the petitioner (Michel) cannot be granted bail.
Advocate Aljo K Joseph, appearing for Michel, said that because of his vulnerable age and overcrowding in jail, he is likely to contact COVID-19 which may be detrimental to his health.
He submitted that Delhi High Court was wrong in dismissing his interim bail plea on the ground that his apprehensions are unfounded.
When contacted about the proceedings, Joseph said, "The bench told me that as per the criteria fixed for release of prisoners in wake of coronavirus pandemic by the High Powered committee, the foreigners lodged in jails cannot be released."
The High Court on April 7 had dismissed his bail plea saying that the apprehension of Michel that because of his vulnerable age and overcrowding in jail, he is likely to contact COVID-19 which may be detrimental to his health, is unfounded.
It had said, "As regards the apprehension of the petitioner (Michel) being infected by COVID-19 pandemic, it may be noted that the petitioner is lodged in a separate cell with only two other prisoners and thus, is not in a barrack or dormitory where there are a number of prisons. It is not the case of the petitioner that any of the two inmates residing with him are suffering from COVID-19.
"Hence, the apprehension of the petitioner also because of the vulnerable age and overcrowding in jail that he is likely to contact COVID-19 which may be detrimental to his health, is unfounded."
In his plea, the 59-year-old Michel has claimed that his health condition was critical and incompatible with the current prison status, especially to cope up with the risk of contracting the COVID-19 infection which could have a lethal effect on him as he is already suffering from serious pathologies.
Michel, extradited from Dubai, was arrested by the ED on December 22, 2018. On January 5 last year, he was sent to judicial custody in the ED case. He is also lodged in judicial custody in another case registered by the CBI in connection with the scam.
Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and the CBI. The other two are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa. On April 1, the apex court had asked Michel to first approach the high court with his plea.