The Patiala House Court on Monday granted bail to former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief SP Tyagi, accused of receiving kickbacks in AgustaWestland helicopter deal. Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar granted the relief to SP Tyagi on a personal bond of Rs two lakh and one surety of like amount.
The court, however, imposed certain conditions on the accused and asked him not to try to influence the witnesses and hamper the probe. The bail applications of other two accused — Tyagi’s cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and lawyer Gautam Khaitan — are pending before the court which said it will decide both the pleas on 4 January. During the hearing of the bail plea, S P Tyagi’s advocate Maneka Guruswamy had said that her client “could not be deprived of freedom if the investigation is taking time to complete”.
In a sudden and first of its kind action, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had arrested SP Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev, and a lawyer on 9 December in the sensational Rs 450 crore bribery case in the procurement of 12 VVIP helicopters from UK-based AgustaWestland during the UPA-II government.
Seventy-one-year-old SP Tyagi, who retired in 2007, was called for questioning at CBI headquarters along with his cousin and Chandigarh-based lawyer Gautam Khaitan, who were taken into custody after nearly four hours of grilling, PTI had reported.
These were the first arrests in the case by CBI which came three years after it registered an FIR in 2013 to probe the allegations in the aftermath of the details of the scam emerging in Italy where the prosecutors levelled allegations of corruption in the deal against the chief of Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland.
On 23 December special CBI judge Arvind Kumar also reserved its order on the bail applications of SP Tyagi’s cousin Sanjeev and Khaitan and posted the matter for 26 December for pronouncing the order.
During proceedings, Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for CBI, had opposed the bail pleas of the accused, saying if set free, they might influence witnesses and hamper the “multi-layered probe by various agencies in more than one jurisdictions involving several countries”.
“The persons are of high ranking… The investigation is going on and we are getting support from other countries. If they get bail, they may influence witnesses, destroy evidences and hamper the ongoing probe which is at a very crucial stage.
“We have evidences where the meetings unofficially took place for the purpose of crime. At this stage, please do not entertain their bail pleas. Let the probe be completed,” he said, seeking dismissal of the bail pleas of all three accused and adding that the matter has “tarnished country’s name.”
However, the CBI also told the court that “it is not our argument that the accused may flee from justice.”
On the court’s query whether the CBI had any material regarding S P Tyagi receiving money, the agency said the former IAF chief had purchased several properties for which the sources of income were not disclosed by him and alleged that he had abused his official position.
Opposing CBI’s contention, S P Tyagi’s advocate Maneka Guruswamy said his client “could not be deprived from freedom if the investigation is taking time to complete”.
She claimed before the court that in the last four years since the FIR was registered, the CBI has never been able to confront Tyagi with any incriminating evidence till date.
“The CBI has not demonstrated anything more than a statement that my client recieved some cash. He is already retired and not going to influence the probe and there is no evidence to suggest that he tried to do so in the past,” the counsel said.
Advocate Pramod Kumar Dubey, appearing for Khaitan, also countered CBI’s argument, claiming that the agency was trying to sensitise the matter and there was no allegation that his client had not joined the probe or tried to influence it.
Dubey had told the court that “if they had to hamper probe, they would have done it in the past three years.”
Sanjeev Tyagi’s counsel Manav Gupta also opposed CBI’s contention saying there was no reason to claim that if granted the relief, his client would hamper the probe.
The accused persons have sought bail on the ground that the evidence was documentary in nature and has already been seized by CBI and they have cooperated with the probe agency.
The court had on 17 December sent all the three accused to the judicial custody till 30 December.
The accused have alleged that the “CBI was trying to extract the confession using force”. The defence counsel had also claimed that there was no apprehension of them fleeing from justice or tampering with evidence.
The CBI had said it was a “very serious” and “a very high-profile” case requiring interrogation to unearth larger conspiracy as the “interest of the nation was compromised”. It had submitted that “one part of the crime was committed in India while various other angles are in foreign land.”
Tyagi’s counsel had earlier claimed that the decision to procure VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland was a “collective” one and Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was also a part of it.
With inputs from agencies
First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 12:26 IST