SC reject plea for SIT probe into chopper deal

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 01, 2013 13:50 hrs

New Delhi, Mar 1 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday rejected a PIL seeking a court-monitored independent probe into the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopters deal which has been clouded by the allegations of kickbacks.

A bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, while declining the plea by PIL by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, observed that the apex court was not the appropriate forum for agitating the issue.

"As long as such public spirited people are there no one can whip out the gravity of the offence," Justice Alam said as Sharma told the court that: "They (the government) are trying to whip out the gravity of the offence and evidence backing it.

While the government has announced a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the alleged scam, the CBI has named former air force chief S.P.Tyagi and ten others in a preliminary enquiry on the allegation of kickbacks in the deal.

Taking the court through the entire sequence of events leading to the contracting of 12 AgustaWestland helicopters from its Italian manufacturer Finmeccanica, Sharma told the court that the helicopter's altitude capacity was scaled down from 6,000 meters to 4,300 meters to accommodate the Italian firm.

Citing certain documents that he claimed were in his possession but could not be accessed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, Sharma said: "I am an ordinary advocate. I can access these documents. But government can't."

Sharma had filed the PIL Feb seeking the quashing of the deal for the purchase of 12 helicopter to fly the VVIP and direction to the central government to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigation into the allegations of kickbacks in Rs.3,600 crore deal.

The PIL has said that despite having all the details on the allegations of kickbacks in the helicopter deal, the government did not taken any step for the cancellation of February 2010 deal for the purchase of the 12 helicopters.

It said that though government had information on alleged kickbacks but it did not register even an FIR against the Indian citizens involved in the helicopter deal.

Three of the 12 helicopters that were contracted by the government have already been supplied by the manufacturers.

The Indian Air Force had sought the AgustaWestland choppers as a replacement for its Mi-17 cargo helicopters that were modified for VVIP deployment. The CAG had critically commented on it saying it was a waste of resources.

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