Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Supreme Court dismisses petition by Swaraj Abhiyan to probe purchase of AgustaWestland helicopter by Chhattisgarh



The Supreme Court today dismissed the petition filed by Swaraj Abhiyan seeking probe into the alleged anomalies in the purchase of AgustaWestland helicopter by the State of Chhattisgarh.

A Bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit delivered the verdict after hearing a batch of petitions. “We broadly find that no case is made out for interference by this Court for issuing a direction as sought in absence of an allegation of extraneous consideration being substantiated.”

It was the petitioners’ contention that the State of Chhattisgarh had entered into a sham agreement with Sharp Ocean Investments Limited to acquire the VVIP chopper without following due process of law which caused financial loss to the exchequer.

The petitioner had also alleged involvement of Abhishak Singh, son of Chief Minister Raman Singh, as a beneficiary in the procurement and had submitted that the excess price was paid to benefit Abhishak Singh.

It was the case of the petitioner that even though there were other tenders for the same helicopter, it was not considered by the State and hence extraneous payments were made to procure the helicopter.

The Bench observed in its judgment that,  “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.”

The Court also ruled out that commission was paid to Singh stating that there is no clear evidence that loss was caused to the public exchequer.

It held,  “There is no material to prima facie hold that beneficiary of the transaction was Abhishak Singh. 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 for issuing a direction as sought in absence of allegation of extraneous consideration being substantiated.”

While dismissing the petition, the Court also observed,  “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 the decision making which can be challenged at appropriate forum by the aggrieved party.”

Original article can be found here ➤ https://barandbench.com

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking a special investigation team (SIT) probe into alleged irregularities in Chhatisgrah's purchase of a AgustaWestland helicopter for VIPs in 2006-07 and also into the foreign bank accounts purportedly linked to Chief Minister Raman Singh's son.

A division bench of Justice A. K. Goel and Justice U.

U. Lalit dismissed the plea filed by the NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, saying it does not find any merit.

"There is no material to prima facie hold that beneficiary of transaction was Abhishak Singh (Chief Minister's son). 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 for issuing a direction as sought in absence of allegation of extraneous consideration being substantiated," said the court in its order.

Chhattisgarh had denied the allegations, calling them "reckless" and a "politically motivated" filed to malign reputations as elections were due in the state.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, had told the bench that a bank account in the name of Abhishak Singh was opened in July 2008 in British Virgin Islands, and on August 1, 2008, one of the firms which was purportedly involved in the deal was wound up.

He had alleged that there was a strong possibility that the money paid as commission in this deal has ultimately reached the foreign bank account.

Bhushan added that a proposal of the state in December 2006 said that there should be open bid to purchase helicopter and helicopter firms should be invited but no company was called and a tender was issued only for a AgustaWestland chopper.

An extra amount of $1.324 million was paid to a firm Sharp Ocean over and above the cost of the helicopter which was $5.246 million, said Bhushan.

The bench in its order, however, said that it cannot be disputed that the state government was entitled to make a choice to purchase the AgustaWestland helicopter and there is "nothing on record to show that the helicopter could have been procured for 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 payment 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," it added.

Original article ➤ http://www.business-standard.com

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