NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Chhattisgarh government to produce the original documents on the purchase of a helicopter from AgustaWestland in 2006-07 for VVIP use. The BJP government in the state is battling allegations of corruption in the chopper deal.
The Bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit asked the Raman Singh Government to clarify why it chose only AgustaWestland helicopter for VVIP movement. “Why was the chief secretary’s suggestion to look beyond AgustaWestland helicopter overshadowed by the state government? Was this an informed decision?” the Bench asked.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, led by Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, which alleged that there were irregularities in the deal and that the UK-based AgustaWestland was chosen without a transparent tender process.
“We only want to see whether there was any fraud or hanky-panky. That is why we want to see the files,” the court told senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, who appeared for the state government.
The petition alleged that the Chief Minister’s son was involved in the purchase and demanded that a Special Investigation Team be set up to probe the charges of kickbacks in the Rs 3,700-crore deal. Abhishek Singh, the CM’s son, was drawn into the controversy after it emerged that he had formed a shell company six months after the helicopter was bought. Bhushan also alleged that Abhishek had opened an account in a foreign bank during that time.
“When the Chief Secretary’s note was about the purchase of a helicopter through global tender, why was Agusta chosen and who took the decision to confine the tender only to Augusta?” the Bench pointedly asked.
The government replied that it was acting on the recommendation of the chief pilot and the Civil Aviation Secretary. “No other company fulfilled the specifications,” Jethmalani said.
The next hearing in the matter is slated for November 23.
Opposing the petition, Attorney General K K Venugopal said it should not be entertained as it had been filed by a political party. He also expressed concern that sensitive documents, including Cabinet notes which are outside the purview of the RTI law, have been forming the basis of more and more PILs.
“Documents of Enforcement Directorate, Cabinet proceedings… are filed. Electronic copy (of these documents) is taken. This is an offence under the Information Technology Act,” the AG said.
Bhushan told the Bench that the petitioner has received some of these documents through RTI. On this, the Bench asked him to keep the RTI files ready as it wanted to pursue them during next hearing.