Christian Michel James, an alleged middleman arrested in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam case by the CBI and ED, moved the Delhi High Court on Thursday seeking interim bail citing risk of contracting coronavirus in the Tihar Jail.
59-year-old Michel claimed that his health condition was critical and incompatible with the current prison status, especially to cope 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.
“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,” the plea said.
“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,” added the plea, filed through advocates Sriram Parakkat, Vishnu Shankar and Aljo K Joseph.
It also referred to the Supreme Court”s March 16 order directing all the states and union territories (UTs) 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 the spread of the virus. It said Michel’s health condition needs to be monitored and treated and he requires home-like environment where the risk of contagion is less 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.
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.
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 cases filed by the ED and the CBI. The other two are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.