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No interim bail for Christian Michel, Delhi HC says his Covid-19 fear is unfounded




Christian Michel
File photo of Christian Michel | PTI

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Monday rejected the interim bail application of AgustaWestland scam accused Christian Michel, ruling that his fear of contracting Covid-19 in his cell was “unfounded”.

Justice Mukta Gupta noted that Michel is lodged in a separate cell with only two other prisoners, and observed, “It is not the case of the petitioner that any of the two inmates residing with him are suffering from Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, the apprehension of the petitioner also because of the vulnerable age and overcrowding in jail that he is likely to contact Covid-19 which may be detrimental to his health, is unfounded.”

The court further noted that Michel was a “flight risk”, as he had fled from Italy after knowing about his possible arrest and had to be extradited from Dubai after an inquiry.

Michel is one of the three alleged middlemen being probed in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper scam. He was arrested in Dubai and extradited to India in December 2018. The chargesheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate says he has been accused of receiving kickbacks to the tune of 30 million euro (about Rs 225 crore).

Controversy erupted over the deal in 2013, when Giuseppe Orsi, chairman of AgustaWestland’s parent company Finmeccanica, and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini were arrested on charges of bribing middlemen to clinch the deal with India. The middlemen in question were allegedly Guido Ralph Haschke, his partner Carlos Gerosa, and Michel.

All three alleged middlemen are being probed by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Also read: After nearly 15,000 deaths, this is how Italy managed to bring its daily Covid-19 toll down

Every Tihar jail prisoner screened

Michel had relied on an order passed by the Supreme Court on 23 March, when a three-judge bench had directed all states and union territories to set up high-level committees to determine the class of prisoners who could be released on parole for four to six weeks.

But the high court noted that the high-powered committee had specifically excluded cases of foreign nationals, prisoners involved in more than one case and cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Michel’s case fell under these exclusions, and hence, he could not have been released by relying on the Supreme Court order.

As for his plea claiming that his age and “pre-existing” illnesses would make him “more susceptible” to Covid-19, the high court was informed of the measures being taken to ensure that this does not happen.

It was told that every prisoner in Tihar jail has been screened to check if they had any Covid-19 symptoms, and that no positive case has been found so far.

The court was also informed that every prisoner being arrested now was screened first and then lodged separately to reduce the risk of infection.

Also read: Rajeev Saxena, approver in AgustaWestland case can’t travel abroad for cancer treatment: SC

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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