CBI seeks President nod to examine Governors` in chopper deal

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 22:03

New Delhi: After the refusal by Law Ministry, the CBI has now approached President`s office seeking permission to record as witness the statements of Governors M K Narayanan and B V Wanchoo in connection with the probe into the VVIP helicopter deal.

Highly-placed sources said permission has been sought from President Pranab Mukherjee`s office to record statements of West Bengal Governor Narayanan, who was the National Security Advisor, and his Goa counterpart Wanchoo, who was the head of elite Special Protection Group (SPG) guarding the Prime Minister.

The sources said the agency has made it clear that the two Constitutional functionaries would be approached as witnesses for recording their statements in the case.
The move comes against the backdrop of Law Ministry rejecting the plea of the CBI to quiz the two on the ground that they enjoyed constitutional immunity.

The CBI had sought permission to record their statement as part of its probe into alleged Rs 360 crore bribe in the deal that was scrapped by the government last month.

Seeking recording of their statements, the CBI has said Wanchoo and Narayanan had participated in the meeting in 2005 that allowed key changes in the technical specifications.
The sources said the CBI had sought permission also on the ground that the President was the appointing authority of of the Governors. The President may take opinion of the legal experts before allowing the agency to record the statement, the sources feel.

The CBI claims that the parameters regarding the height
at which the helicopters can fly as also the flight evaluation were changed in a manner that enabled AgustaWestland to clinch the vis a vis its competitor Sikorsky.

While rejecting the plea of CBI, the Law Ministry had said the Constitutional posts gave them immunity from prosecution under Article 361 of the Constitution.

CBI has registered a case against former IAF Chief S P Tyagi along with 13 others including his cousins and European middlemen in the case of alleged bribery.

The allegation against the former Air Chief was that he had reduced the height of the VVIP helicopters so that AgustaWestland is included in the bids.

However, the decision was taken in consultation with the Special Protection Group and other top officials of the Prime Ministers Office but the agency did not get permission to question either M K Narayanan or B V Wanchoo who are Governors of West Bengal and Goa respectively.

It alleged that reduction of service ceiling--maximum height at which a helicopter can perform normally--allowed UK-based AgustaWestland to get into the fray as, otherwise, its helicopters were not even qualified for submission of bids.

PTI

First Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 22:03

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