Agusta scam: SC dismisses plea for probe into 'kickbacks' to scribes

Agusta scam: SC dismisses plea for probe into 'kickbacks' to scribes

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a PIL seeking a probe into allegations of kickbacks of 6 million euros – or over Rs 40 crore – to some journalists in the AgustaWestland helicopter scam.

A three-judge bench presided over by Justice Dipak Misra described the petition by senior journalist Hari Jaisingh as “an attack on the independence of media”.

The petition is “a disguised idea to curtail independence and freedom of media,” the bench said.
But senior advocate Geeta Luthra, appearing for the petitioner, sought a probe by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation into alleged revelations that the money was earmarked and paid to manage the media during the deal to purchase the VVIP helicopters.

The bench added, “It is a dangerous phenomenon. By this petition, the freedom given to he media may be smothered. It is an attack on the media. We must presume integrity and objectivity of the media. It is up to the CBI to investigate. Perhaps, this petition may pave the way for media management.”

“Why are you blaming the media? Why should we direct the CBI to investigate the media. Media has a role and an independent status in our democracy. Its freedom can’t be throttled like this,” said the bench, which also comprises Justices A M Khanwilkar and Mohan M Shantanagoudar.

“Are the terms of the contract in public? If it was entered by Indian citizens or is it executable in India,” the bench asked her. The counsel responded by saying Michel was in India most of the time and the Enforcement Directorate has already called one of the journalists for investigation.

She maintained there was a clear violation of the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The bench, however, said, “We will not direct investigation against media. It is a contract between X and Y. Where is media in it? It is up to the investigation agency to look into all these aspects. Why should there be a direction from the court?”

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi also questioned the plea, saying there cannot any probe against the media.
 

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