HC seeks Michel's reply on plea against phone calls

HC seeks Michel's reply on plea against phone calls

Michel was granted 15 minutes a week for making calls to his friends, family and lawyer. PTI file photo.

The Delhi High Court Monday sought response of Christian Michel, arrested in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, and the CBI on Tihar Jail authorities' plea challenging an order allowing him to make international phone calls in violation of prison rules.

Justice Mukta Gupta issued notice to Michel and CBI on the jail authorities plea in which they alleged that no facts and circumstances were considered by the trial court for granting an "illegal and improper privilege of communication".

The trial court had in January allowed Michel to make international phone calls to his family, friends and lawyers and he was granted 15 minutes a week for making calls.

Advocate Avi Singh, appearing for Tihar Jail, said the prison manual provided only for 10 minutes per week for making calls.

He said that as per the January 27, 2017 circular of prison authorities, a foreign national is only allowed to make calls to the country of his or her origin.

Michel's country of origin is the UK and as per the jail call records, he has been mostly contacting his "legal representative" in Italy.

The high court listed the matter for further hearing on April 22 and said that Michel be produced before it on the next date, if already not released from jail.

The accused, lodged in jail under judicial custody, had approached the trial court seeking permission to make phone calls to his family and others, claiming that the prison authorities had rejected his plea.

Michel, extradited from Dubai, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on December 22 last year. He was later arrested by CBI in the case related to Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland deal.

The court had earlier imposed restrictions on Michel meeting his lawyers while he was in the ED's custody, after the agency had said he was misusing the legal access by passing chits to his lawyers, asking them how to tackle questions on "Mrs Gandhi".

Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

ED, in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he had received 30 million euros (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.

CBI, in its charge sheet, has alleged an estimated loss of 398.21 million euros (about Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer due to the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euros.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox