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Rs 3600 cr chopper deal case: Court dismisses plea of Christian James Michel seeking release from custody

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By Dhiraj Beniwal

New Delhi | February 29, 2024 3:56:30 AM IST
The Rouse Avenue court has recently dismissed the plea of accused Christian James Michel seeking release from custody on the ground that he has undergone a maximum period of detention.

He is accused in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP Chopper deal case and was extradited from the UAE in December 2018. Since then, he has been in custody.

He has been booked in CBI as well in a money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Special CBI judge Sanjeev Agarwal dismissed the plea of Christian James Michel seeking release from custody on the ground that he has already undergone the maximum detention period.

The court also noted that Christian James Michel is also an accused under Section 467 IPC, under which the maximum punishment is life imprisonment.

"Be that as it may. In view of the foregoing discussion, the application of the applicant / accused, Christian James Michel, for release has no merits, same stands dismissed," Special Judge Agrawal said in the order dated February 23, 2024.

The Court said, "Since Section 467 IPC has been invoked by the prosecuting agency by way of the supplementary charge sheet, this plea that the accused has already undergone the maximum period of detention under sections. 415, 420 IPC as well as under Section 8 of the IPC Act is not tenable, as the prosecuting agency has also invoked Section 467 IPC, which entails punishment up to life."

The court noted that the Supreme Court dismissed his bail plea on February 7, 2023, and held that the plea of the accused that he was entitled to bail under Section.

438 CrPC cannot be accepted, as besides the provisions of Sections 415 and 420 read with Section 120B IPC and Section 8 of the PC Act, the accused is alleged to have committed offences under Section 467 IPC, which is punishable up to life imprisonment.

It was submitted by the Counsel for Michel that the accused was extradited from Dubai on4.12.2018 and has been in custody for more than five years, and the maximum sentence prescribed under those offences, as they originally stood before 2014, is only five years. Since the applicant has completed the maximum sentence in terms of the charge sheet dated August 31, 2017, and September 17,202, he deserves to be released from custody.

The Court said that it is not clear, under what provision of CrPC, the present application has been moved by the accused, as the accused could only be released on bail as per Chapter XXXIII CrPC.

The court also said that the Learned Counsel for the applicant had contended during the course of arguments that the present application is not for the grant of bail, but for the the release of accused from custody, but he has failed to point out any provision of law under whichthe said application has been moved.

"Even otherwise, this court being trial court is not a constitutional court clothed with powers of writ jurisdiction, therefore, relief of release sought by way of present application is even otherwise misconceived for this reason also," the court said in the order dated February 23, 2024.

It was submitted that in the extradition decree, it is categorically mentioned that the applicant is extradited for the offence under sections 415, 420, and 120B of the Indian penal code and section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

It was further submitted that in the chargesheet filed by the CBI before this Court, there is noIngredients in Sections 415 and 420 of the IPC are not made out. Rather, it is impossible for the applicant to bribe anyone in India. On the contrary, the applicant had only a contractual relationship with the Augusta Westland Group of companies for the servicing and supply of spare parts in the Asian Region.

The allegation that the applicant has bribed, which falls under Section 8 of the IPC Act, is also not substantiated even after filing 3 chargesheets, the counsel argues. There is no specific allegation against the applicant that he has committed any offence under Section 8 of the PC Act, he added.

The counsel submitted that, in the absence of any allegation under Section 415 and 420 specifically against the accused or applicant, and coupled with the facts that the chargesheet filed by the CBI dated 08.09.2012 of PC Act 1988.

It was submitted that for those sections as they stood originally, amended before 2014, the maximum sentence prescribed is only 5 years. The applicant completed the maximum sentence in terms of the chargesheets dated August 31, 2017, and September 17, 2020, on December 5, 2023, as a pre-trial incarceration.

It was submitted by the counsel that the judgment of the Italian court, which was relied on by the prosecution, gives a complete exoneration to the applicant and others, after framingcharges.

Article 20 (2) of the constitution states that no one shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.

It is pertinent to mention here that a conjoint reading of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and Article 20 (2) of the Constitution of India, which runs sacrosanct, only on this basis, the present prosecution against the applicant is not maintainable in the eyes of law, the counsel added. (ANI)

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