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Delhi HC rejects interim bail to Christian Michel in AgustaWestland case

NEW DELHI: Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to grant interim bail to Christian Michel, an alleged middleman in AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam case, in view of the risk of him contracting coronavirus in prison.

Justice Mukta Gupta, while dismissing the bail, noted that the apprehension of the petitioner being infected by COVID-19 is unfounded as he 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.

The court said that it is not the case of the petitioner that any of the two inmates residing with him are suffering from COVID-19.

It also noted that the petitioner, failing to qualify on three criteria laid down by the High Power Committee, which was set up to decongest the prisons in the national capital amid coronavirus fears, has not been released on bail.

The committee had decided not to release foreign nationals, those 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.

Advocate DP Singh, appeared for the CBI, opposed the interim bail and stated that the petitioner is not entitled to bail as he did not join investigation anywhere and after a long drawn extradition process, was extradited from Dubai.

Advocate Amit Mahajan, appearing for the ED, contended that the petitioner is presently lodged at the safest place in the country being the Tihar Jail.

Mahajan had said that there is no threat of the petitioner coming on contact with any COVID-19 patient and thereby, his apprehension that due to his age, and being a British national, not accustomed to Indian conditions, his immunity is low, is totally unfounded.

Michel, in his plea, moved through advocate Aljo K Joseph, stated that his age and health condition are at risk of contacting COVID-19 infection and added that it is “far-fetched that he is likely to jump bail” when he can be procured during the trial by imposing other conditions.

The petition said that the health condition of Michel, who is currently lodged in Tihar Jail, is very critical and incompatible with the current prison status, especially with the risk of contracting COVID-19, which could have a lethal effect on the applicant.

Michel was extradited from Dubai in 2018 and is currently lodged in Tihar Jail in connection with alleged irregularities in the chopper deal. While the CBI is probing his alleged role as a ‘middleman’ in the deal, the ED is investigating money laundering charges against him.

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