Free Press Journal

SC dismisses plea against C’garh govt’s Agusta chopper purchase


New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed petitions seeking a probe into alleged irregularities in the purchase of the AgustaWestland helicopter by the BJP government of Chhattisgarh in 2006-07 for VIP use, saying there were “no grounds to accept the prayer for probe” and “no clear issue of genuine public interest” was involved.

The petitioners included T S Singh Dev, Congress leader of Opposition in the Chhattisgarh Assembly, who had sought an inquiry into the purchase of this helicopter not only by the Chhattisgarh government but also by the governments of Rajasthan, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand.

The Bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit, which dismissed the petition, had on January 31 posted a series of questions to the Chhattisgarh government and wanted to know what the interest of Abhishek Singh was, son of Chief Minister Raman Singh, in this deal.

The court exonerated Abhishek, holding that “there is no material to prima facie hold that he was beneficiary of the transaction.” It said: “We do not consider it necessary to go into the allegation of mere procedural irregularities. We broadly find that no case is made out for interference by this court.’

It also held that “a petition under Article 32, 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 decision making which can be challenged at appropriate forum by the aggrieved party.”

Holding that the chief minister’s son is not personally a party in the deal, the court did not take cognizance of his (Abhishek’s) name appearing in the Panama Papers.

It said: “Disclosure in Panama Papers is a matter which is still under investigation by a group constituted by the Government of India, which is to give its report to the Special Investigating

Team constituted by this court.”

Swaraj Abhiyan, a Delhi-based NGO-turned political party, was the first petitioner. It had cited a CAG report on the loss of Rs 65 lakh to the exchequer in the procurement of the particular helicopter by the Chhattisgarh government.

During the hearing, the petitioners had sought probe into the deal and cited the arrest of the then Indian Air Force chief S P Tyagi in the case of alleged bribes paid in a 2010 deal signed during the UPA regime.

Even Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had figured in the controversy for ordering the purchase of an Rs 50-crore helicopter from Westland and not from anybody else.

The court, however, held that the state government is entitled to make a choice in the matter. It said there is nothing on record to show that it could have been procured for lesser price.

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