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SC clubs hearing on AgustaWestland with Panama Paper plea

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to hear a PIL by an NGO seeking CBI/SIT probe into the alleged wrongdoings in the purchase of AgustaWestland helicopter by five states, together with the hearing on plea for probe into the overseas accounts of Indian nationals named in Panama Papers.

The bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice R. Banumathi decided to hear the two matters together after senior counsel Sanjay Hegde told the court that the trail of the alleged tainted money in the purchase of AgustaWestland helicopters by a certain state government could be traced to Panama Papers.

The purchase of 12 VVIP AgustaWestland helicopters by the central government was followed up by five state governments — Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan — and they also purchased helicopters from the same company for their requirements.

Trying to impress upon the court to hear the two petitions together, the senior counsel said: “If I buy a car through a middleman instead of buying directly from the manufacturer and a part of middleman’s commission goes to the account of my son, then it is a matter of concern and cannot not be brushed aside as something inconsequential.”

Directing for the hearing of plea by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan to be done along with the PIL by Advocate M.L. Sharma seeking probe into the Panama Paper leak, the bench delinked the hearing of a plea seeking probe into the allegation that chopper company had spent six million euros for “managing” the media in a VIP helicopter deal that ran into rough weather following allegations of payoffs.

The copy of the petition on alleged media management by AugustaWestland by veteran journalist Hari Jaisinh was given to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi. The court directed for its hearing after six weeks.

In the last hearing of the plea by Jaisinh, the court had asked him to give a copy of the same to the CBI and the Directorate of Enforcement.

Even as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi reiterated his earlier contention that the petition by Swaraj Abhiyan was not maintainable, as some of the people associated with it are floating a political outfit by the name of ‘Swaraj India’, the court said that PIL should be genuine and sanguine.

While the Attorney General referred to an earlier judgment of the top court to buttress his argument that in the case of report by the CAG or the PAC, the court has no jurisdiction, as both are accountable and answerable to Parliament, senior counsel Shanti Bhushan said that both in 2G and coal scams, cases were based on the CAG report.

–IANS