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Dubai court allows extradition of Christian Michel, middleman in VVIP chopper scam

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Dubai court allows extradition of Christian Michel, middleman in VVIP chopper scam

Michel, along with former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and others, is a key accused in the Rs 3700 AgustaWestland chopper scandal, he was arrested in UAE last year

In a major boost for the Narendra Modi government, a court in Dubai has given its nod for the extradition of Christian Michel, the British middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scandal of 2007.

Though the Indian government is yet to receive any official communication from authorities concerned in the UAE government regarding the extradition, sources say that the investigative agencies in New Delhi have accessed a copy of the Dubai court’s order and are getting it translated from Arabic to English. The investigative agencies are expected to take up the matter with the authorities concerned in the Indian external affairs ministry as well as with the Prime Minister’s Office and press for urgent action.

Michel had been arrested in the UAE last year and was facing extradition proceedings in the country. He is wanted in India for allegedly organising bribes in exchange for a contract for VVIP helicopters. Former Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and several of his relatives are, alongwith Michel, named as the key accused in the high-profile defense sector scandal that had broken out during the UPA regime. Tyagi had recently been granted bail in the case by a Delhi court.

The AgustaWestland case involves a 2007 contract signed by the UPA government for the purchase of 12 luxury helicopters for use by top leaders, including the President, Prime Minister and former prime ministers of India. In 2014, the UPA government had scrapped the contract amid allegations that the supplier AgustaWestland, whose parent company Finmeccanica ran into allegations of bribe-giving in Italy, had paid kickbacks in India.

According to a report in The Hindu, the Dubai court found merit in the arguments made in favour of India’s request for Michel’s extradition, disallowing the defence’s contentions on various counts. The agencies are, however, yet to completely examine the court order.

Michel, a British national, is alleged to have received Euro 30 million (around Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland for his role as the middleman entrusted with ensuring that the VVIP chopper deal was executed without any hurdles. He is said to have influenced the decision to reduce the service ceiling of helicopters from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres in 2005, which had made AgustaWestland eligible for the contract with the Indian government.

The Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate had earlier filed charge sheets in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, naming Michel as one of the alleged middlemen through whom bribes were paid by AgustaWestland to bag the deal for supply of 12 helicopters to India. The ED charge sheet reportedly alleges that remittances made by Michel through his Dubai-based firm Global Services FZE to a media firm in Delhi, floated by him along with two Indians, were from the funds received from AgustaWestland.

It may be recalled that former Air Chief Tyagi was arrested in 2016 over allegations that he accepted bribes to tailor specifications at the instance of his cousins. He became the first ever military chief – former or current – to be arrested. The BJP has, however, maintained that the scam was executed at the highest levels of the UPA government, which had been battling a series of scams through its second term in office between 2009 and 2014, and that Tyagi was only being made a scapegoat to shield top Congress leaders.

Earlier in July this year, the Michel’s lawyer had said he was being pressured by Indian agencies to frame former Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the case in return for exoneration from criminal proceedings. The CBI had predictably refuted the allegation.

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Calcutta High Court suggests changing name of Sita, Akbar lions

Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya asked AAG whether he had any pets and if they were named after national heroes.

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The Calcutta High Court on Thursday suggested to the Bengal government that the names of lioness Sita and lion Akbar, who were placed in the same enclosure at the Bengal Safari Park in Siliguri, could be changed.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had filed a petition in the High Court to change the name of the lioness Sita, who was recently brought to West Bengal from Tripura.

Hearing a petition, the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Saugata Bhattacharyya orally directed the State to avoid controversy and consider renaming the big cats.

Questioning the intention of the State, Justice Bhattacharyya asked the government if it would name a lion after a Hindu deity, a Muslim prophet or Christian god, a freedom fighter or a Nobel laureate. Generally, anyone who has been revered or respected by the people of our country, Justice Bhattacharyya further asked.

On this occasion, the Additional Advocate General (AAG), appearing for the State, submitted that the naming of the lions took place in Tripura, and it was the responsibility of the Tripura Zoo authorities. Counsel further told the Court that the State itself was already considering changing the name of lions.

Upon hearing the arguments, the Bench also questioned the logic behind naming the lions after a god, freedom fighter or Nobel laureate and further asked why the State did not challenge the names given by Tripura.

The Court further noted that the petition filed by VHP espoused the rights of a large section of people and said that naming a lion after Sita, a largely worshipped by Hindus would hurt their religious sentiments.

During the exchange with AAG, Justice Bhattacharyya also stated that the animals could not be named after respected figures. He further asked AAG whether he had any pets and if they were named after national heroes.

The Bench had directed the petition by VHP to be reclassified as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and redirected it to a regular Bench that can hear the same.

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Farmer who died in protest, survived by mentally ill father, unwed sister

Farmer Leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal has asked the Punjab Government to declare Shubhkaran Singh a martyr and provide benefits accordingly. 

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The 21-year-old farmer, Shubhkaran Singh who died during the clashes between the police and the protesting farmers on Khanauri border left behind his mentally ill father and an unwed sister. His mother died years ago.

The 21 years old, a resident of Balloch village of Bathinda in Punjab, left his home on February 13 to join the Delhi Chalo march. Reports stated that Shubhkaran Singh was the youngest among the group of 15 people who left to join the protest from the village.

Reportedly, Shubhkaran was the only son and sole breadwinner of the family. The 21-year-old farmer has about two acres of land. Shubhkaran, who has two sisters, also took a loan for the marriage of his one sister.

The farmers who halted their protest for two days after the death of the youth, have blocked the autopsy. Farmer Leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal has asked the AAP led Punjab Government to declare Shubhkaran a martyr and provide benefits accordingly. The leader further said that the government should create a five member board to conduct the post-mortem examination.

Meanwhile, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher said that the police took action when the farmers were peacefully trying to cross over into Haryana. He added that more than 100 farmers have been injured and demanded the treatment of injured farmers.

Haryana police while appealing for peace said that farmers escalated the violence by attacking the police personnels with sticks and maces and that the police were only trying to restrain them.

Issuing a statement, Additional Inspector General, Manisha Chaudhary said that farmers surrounded the police from all sides, burned stubble by pouring chilli powder in it. She added that around 12 policemen were seriously injured because of the attacks by protestors at Datta Singh Wala-Khanauri border.

Meanwhile, farmer’s leader Pandher said that farmer leaders will discuss future actions and until then, all farmers will remain camped at the borders.

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Congress slams Govt over X blocking accounts linked to farmers protest on Centre’s order, says democracy is being murdered

X disagreed with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts.

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The Congress party on Thursday slammed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government over the action of microblogging platform X blocking accounts and posts linked to the ongoing farmers’ protest and called it a murder of democracy.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, taking to X, said that the action taken by the social media platform on the Centre’s order was a murder of democracy in India.

The Elon Musk-led X, sharing a post on its platform in response to the IT ministry’s order asking it to temporarily block 177 accounts linked to the farmers’ protest, said that the Indian government has issued executive orders requiring it to act on specific accounts and posts, subject to potential penalties, including significant fines and imprisonment.

The X’s Global Government Affairs team further stated that it complied with the orders and they would withhold these accounts and posts in India alone, however, they disagreed with these actions and maintained that freedom of expression should extend to these posts.

Consistent with their position, a writ appeal challenging the Indian government’s blocking orders remains pending. X has also provided the impacted users with notice of these actions following their policies.

Due to legal restrictions, they were unable to publish the executive orders, but they thought that making them public was essential for transparency. This lack of disclosure can lead to a lack of accountability and arbitrary decision-making, the X’s Global Government Affairs said in a post on its platform.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also hit out at the Modi government and termed it a murder of democracy. Taking to X, he raised several questions and said if farmers ask for MSP, shoot them. Is this the Mother of Democracy? Gandhi further said that when the youth ask for the appointment, the Centre refuse to even listen to them, if the former governor tells the truth, then they send CBI to his house.

He also attacked the Modi government for freezing the bank accounts of the most prominent opposition party. He added, saying that Section 144, internet ban, sharp wires, and tear gas shells on farmers are not justified in the democracy. He further attacked the Centre for suppressing the voice of the people. He charged on Centre, saying Modi ji public knows that the government have murdered democracy and they will answer it.

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