Govt Insists No Deal With Fugitive Brit Bizman Michel
New Delhi: In its strongest statement yet on the VVIP chopper scam, the government has taken on those, it says, are “siding with a wanted criminal” and emphasised there is no question of PM Narendra Modi “cutting a deal” with Italy to target the Opposition.
Responding to reports that accused middleman Christian Michel made an offer to share information that was not taken up by PM Modi, the government said, “Some have even tried to side with a wanted criminal”.
“It is well known that any understanding/agreement with an accused outside the frame of law is a criminal act in itself. James Christian Michel is a criminal wanted by the Indian law enforcement agencies. We are pursuing all legal means to arrest him and have him extradited to India. Michel should submit himself to the Indian legal system rather than make elliptical references to offers that are suspect in intent and reality. We are determined that the law must take its course against Michel and his associates,” the government said in a release, showing its resolve to nab Michel, who is alleged to have got the larger slice of funds earmarked for kickbacks for the deal. Coming down hard on the Opposition for raising questions on the blacklisting of Agusta and alleged ‘leniencies’ given, the statement said the “undisputed central issue that stands out is corruption, especially bribery”.
Holding that any other effort is an attempt to “hide the wrongdoers”, the government said one of its primary goals was to fight corruption. “They question the speed of the government processes, especially the investigation. But they do not ask how the corrupt influenced the process of acquisition in the first place and bled the nation. They do not admit corruption; they instead boldly proclaim, ‘catch us if you can’,” said the highly political statement.
Slamming the Opposition for raising questions on alleged ‘leniencies’ to Agusta, it said the central issue was “corruption”
However, it noted that the courts concerned shall decide the cases on the basis of evidence on record and in accordance with law, undeterred by the observations or findings made by the high court in this judgment. The order was delivered in an open court by a bench of Justices RV More and RG Ketkar on a bunch of petitions filed by Adarsh Society challenging the demolition order of the MoEF and a title suit filed by the defence ministry claiming that it owned the land on which the building was constructed. The court asked the Centre and state government to consider taking departmental proceedings in accordance with law against bureaucrats.
“The disciplinary authority shall take decision in accordance with law without being influenced by the findings of the high court,” said the bench.
The bench placed on record its appreciation for the complainant Simpreet Singh, a member of National Alliance of People’s Movement. “But for this intervention, perhaps the gross violation by the petitioners (Adarsh Society) would not have been detected,” said the judges. The court also asked the Adarsh Society to pay .₹ 1 lakh as cost to each of the six respondents, including Bharat Bhushan, director of ministry of environment and forests; Nalini Bhat, advisor and competent authority, MoEF; Sitaram Kunte, former commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and three others. The Adarsh housing scam kicked up a political storm in 2010 forcing the then chief minister Ashok Chavan of the Congress to resign after coming under its cloud. The housing project, standing on prime land in Mumbai, was meant for the welfare of war veterans and war widows. But several influential politicians and top bureaucrats allegedly subverted the rules for their own benefit or that of their close relatives to take advantage of the scheme. Acting advocate general of Maharashtra, Rohit Dev, on behalf of the state government, told the court that he was opposing the stay sought by the petitioner (Adarsh Society) to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.
Adarsh Society had filed a petition in 2011 in the Bombay High Court challenging the demolition order issued by the Union ministry of environment and forests.
Senior counsel Navroz Seervai, appearing for Adarsh Society, highlighted issues, starting from the development plan for the city prepared in 1967, to argue his case that there were no violations either of the rules or Coastal Regulation Zone. The defence ministry also filed a petition in the high court seeking implementation of its demolition order, besides filing a title suit claiming it was the owner of the plot. Adarsh society has been embroiled in a controversy for flouting several environment norms and regulations and for allegedly not taking the requisite permissions.
In January 2011, the union ministry of environment and forest had issued a demolition order mainly on the ground that the society did not have Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) clearance.
The building remains unoccupied and without electricity and water supply. The bench of justices R V More and R G Ketkar had in September 2015 started final hearing of petitions including one filed by the Adarsh society challenging demolition order passed by Union Ministry of Environment and Forest and a petition filed by the Ministry of Defence seeking implementation of the demolition order. In December 2015, the High Court bench had reserved order after hearing all the parties. The judgement was delivered today.