Chopper Scam: Delhi HC reserves order on Michel's interim bail plea citing virus risk in jail

New Delhi, Apr 6 () The Delhi High Court Monday reserved its order on the interim bail plea of Christian Michel James, an alleged middleman arrested in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam cases by the CBI and the ED, who cited risk of contracting coronavirus in Tihar Jail.

Justice Mukta Gupta, who conducted the proceeding through video conferencing, heard the arguments on behalf of counsel for Michel and the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate.

Both the probe agencies opposed the interim bail plea.

Michel, 59, 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.Advertisement

"The agedness and a pre-existing ill state of health will make the applicant's (Michel) body more susceptible to the said infection than any other ordinary prisoner with a normal health condition. Further, the presence within prisons of subjects who are tested positive for Covid19 pose a threat to the applicant considering his existing health condition and age," said the plea, through Vishnu Shankar and Aljo K Joseph.

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 plea further cited the Prime Minister's speech declaring a nation wide 21-day lockdown on March 24 to avoid spread of the virus.

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. The regular bail plea of Michel, who was arrested in 2018 and is in judicial custody since January 5, 2019, is also pending before the high court where the CBI and the ED have contended that he should not be granted the relief as he has a nexus with influential people and can influence witnesses.Advertisement

He has been denied bail in both the matters by the trial court. He has approached the high court against the lower court's decision.

The special CBI court had denied him the relief, saying there was no sufficient ground to grant bail.

Michel, extradited from Dubai, was arrested by the ED on December 22, 2018.Advertisement

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. SKV HMP SA

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