New Delhi: Harping on provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), alleged Augusta Westland middleman Christian Michel argued his bail application in a Delhi court on Wednesday which reserved its order for February 16.
Michel submitted the bail application for both CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) cases citing a delay in filing of the chargesheet by investigating agencies.
However, citing the Supreme Court’s observations in Yogesh Mittal case, both the CBI and ED refuted the plea and stated there was no default bail under Section 167 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The agencies informed special CBI judge Arvind Kumar that Michel is accused of serious economic offences and there is ample evidence against him to prove his guilt.
CBI said Michel is a British national and has no roots in India and there is “every likelihood that if he is granted bail, he may evade the process of law and not return to face the trial.”
“The apprehensions of the CBI about his absconding from the process of law get support from his past conduct. There also exists a security threat for the applicant if released on bail,” the CBI said, while seeking dismissal of his bail plea.
It said the accused had acted as a middleman in a defence deal of the Indian government and such “shady and nefarious deals sometimes create hurdles even in implementing the fair and transparent decisions taken by the governments for procurement of defence equipments in order to strengthen the defence line of the country".
Michel had moved the court seeking bail in cases filed by the CBI and ED, saying the chargesheet against him was not filed within the stipulated period.
“The chargesheet was not filed against him within the stipulated 60-day period under Section 167(2) of the CrPC,” said Michel, who is in custody since December 22, 2018, in his petition.
“Under ordinary circumstances, the CBI has to file a chargesheet within 60 days or a report as to where the investigation stands. Here, the benefit is for me since the investigation is not yet completed,” submitted Michel’s counsel, Joseph, when it was argued that though the investigation of CBI is at a crucial stage, according to the law, bail has to be given.
However, the CBI argued that there can be no default bail under Section 309 of the CrPC and thereby, bail under Section 167 also ceases to exist.
Michel’s Italian lawyer-friend, Santrolli Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos, was present at the court to assist his counsel.
Michel said many of the accused, including Guido Haschke, were not arrested and that not even an application for their extradition has been initiated.
The CBI said contrary to Michel’s claims that there was nothing in Italy, the agency has received quite a lot documents from the authorities there. Hence, his custody was important.
The ED said Michel’s past conduct provides reasonable apprehension that he might evade the process of law. He is also closely linked to certain influential people and might tamper with the evidence of the case.
“The investigation of the case is at a very crucial stage and the instant application is an attempt to adversely affect an effective investigation of the case,” ED said.
However, Michel’s counsel pleading for bail in the ED case said, “The ED has filed the application for custody and not arrest as he was already under judicial custody. It was after 18 days of arrest by the CBI.”
“If the ED is sleeping over it and not asking for custody, then benefit of Section 167 will be naturally extended to Michel in the ED case too. They cannot come on the 60th day and ask for another judicial demand,” submitted Michel’s counsel.
Michel, extradited from Dubai, was arrested by the ED on December 22 last year.
On January 5, Michel was sent to judicial custody.
Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and CBI. The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.