The Delhi HC dismisses Agusta Westland accused, British businessman, Christian Michel’s interim bail

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Justice Mukta Gupta of the Delhi High Court denied interim bail to Christian Michel, an alleged middleman in the VVIP chopper scandal held that Michel is a “flight risk and also has no roots in the society”.

Prior Facts:

  • The 59-year-old Michel 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.

Key Features:

  • The Delhi High Court conducted the hearing through video conferencing, said the apprehension of Michel that because of his vulnerable age and overcrowding in the jail, he is likely to contact COVID-19 which may be detrimental to his health, is unfounded.
  • The ED and CBI, represented through advocates Amit Mahajan and D P Singh respectively, opposed the interim bail plea of Michel, saying he was lodged at the safest place in the country being the Tihar Jail and there is no threat of him coming in contact with any COVID-19 patient.
  • The council said that in Tihar Jail, every prisoner has been screened to check whether he is COVID-19 positive or not and no prisoner to date is suffering from the virus.
  • Last week, the apex court had asked Michel to first approach the high court with his plea
  • In his plea, he also referred to the Supreme Court’s March 16 order directing all the states and union territories to constitute high-level committees to consider releasing on parole or interim bail prisoners and undertrials, for offences entailing up to 7-year jail term, to decongest jails in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.
  • The high court said that according to the apex court’s March 23 order, a high powered committee of the high court laid down certain criteria for releasing the prisoners.
  • It said Michel failed to qualify on three criteria laid down by the high powered committee, that is, being a foreign national, involved in more than one case not being on bail in others and the cases being under Prevention of Corruption Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
  • It said that Michel’s health condition be monitored and treated and he required an environment like home where the risk of contagion is lesser and social distancing can be effectively practiced.

Judgement:

  • The Court while denying the interim bail stated that “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”.
  • The Court added that “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 several prisons.”
  • It stated that “It is not the case of the petitioner that any of the two inmates residing with him are suffering from COVID-19”.
  • The court, in its order, also noted that “despite being a British national, Michel has not been residing in the United Kingdom for the last 6-7 years and had to be extradited from Dubai after an inquiry. After coming to know about the arrest of others in Italy, he fled to Dubai, and that Michel is thus a flight risk and also has no roots in the society.”
  • It said that “the charge sheet has been filed by CBI and complaint by the Enforcement Directorate, and further investigations are pending in both the cases and at this stage, his release even on interim bail is not warranted.”
  • The Judge said, “Hence because of the aforesaid reasons this court is not inclined to grant interim bail to the petitioner. Applications are accordingly dismissed”.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

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Vaibhav Goyal is a 3rd year BA.LLB (H) student of UILS, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. He also basically belongs to the “City Beautiful-Chandigarh”. He had interned and have work experience at various Central and State Government bodies of India including the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi; the Central Information Commission, New Delhi; U.T. Legal Services Authority, Chandigarh, etc. His research projects includes the study on the Right to Emergency Services (PSHRC), Resettlement of Migrant People (NHRC), Implications of RTI in Financial Institutions (CIC), etc. His publications involve articles in different fields of law like administrative, jurisprudence, etc. on online journals including the Juscholars Blog, Burnished Law Journal, etc. His research paper on Prison Reform was published in the Panjab University Journal and his paper was selected in category of best abstract on the topic of Naxalism: A State of Lawlessness and Arbitrariness. He had scored well in various competitions of law consisting of Quiz, Essay Writing, Lecture, Declamation, etc. He had also participated in various conferences including the World Law Forum Conference on Strategic Lawsuits on Public Participation held in New Delhi on Oct 20, 2018 and the National Law Conclave 2020 held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on Jan 11, 2020.