SC clears Raman Singh govt of fraud in Agusta deal

SC clears Raman Singh govt of fraud in Agusta deal

SC clears Raman Singh govt of fraud in Agusta deal

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the Raman Singh-led Chhattisgarh government of charges of playing fraud on the exchequer in purchase of an Agusta Westland chopper in 2007 for the VVIP use.

The court also found no material to prima facie hold that beneficiary of the transaction was Abhishek Singh, son of the chief minister.

NGO Swaraj Abhiyan led by advocate Prashant Bhushan, along with T S Singh Deo, leader of the opposition in the Chhattisgarh Assembly, and a social activist, Rakesh Kumar Choubey sought a probe into the purchase, claiming the CM's son had links with intermediary companies and he was beneficiary in the transaction. They also cited a CAG report pegging Rs 65 lakh loss in the transaction.

"A petition under Article 32 (writ jurisdiction under the Constitution), without clear element of public interest, cannot be entertained at the instance of a political rival merely on account of an alleged procedural irregularity in the decision making," a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit said, dismissing the petitions.

The state, for its part, claimed for quick delivery, it has negotiated with M/s Sharp Ocean Investments Limited, a distrbutor of Agusta, an Italian company, on final payment of $ 6,570,000, though the company itself had quoted the price at $ 5,246,000.

Agreeing to its plea, the court said, "For earlier delivery, pre-sold helicopter could be purchased from its distributor at a higher price. Thus, it cannot be said that there was an excess payment for extraneous reason."

The bench did not find it necessary to go into the allegation of mere procedural irregularities.

"There is nothing on record to show that the Helicopter could have been procured for a lesser price. No person claiming to give a better deal has come forward. Thus, in absence of clear evidence  that loss was caused to public exchequer by way of commission paid to Sharp Ocean Investments Limited which was only a route to send the payment to the son of the Chief Minister, interference by this court is not called for," the bench said.

With regard to claims that the CM's son had links with companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, the court said disclosure in Panama Papers was a matter, still under investigation by Multi Agency Group constituted by the central government in April, 2016 which is to give its report to the Special Investigating Team set up by this court in July, 2011 in separate writ petition.