VVIP chopper deal: Governors can be questioned while in office, says Attorney General

The newly appointed Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on Friday Okayed the governments query that whether the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) can quiz the serving Governors as witnesses in the VVIP helicopter deal, sources said.

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: The newly appointed Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on Friday Okayed the governments query that whether the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) can quiz the serving Governors as witnesses in the VVIP helicopter deal, sources said.

However, Rohatgi added that the Governors could be prosecuted once they are out of office.

Rohtagi`s remarks came in the backdrop of the CBI questioning West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan in the AgustaWestland chopper scam probe.

In the first-ever questioning of anyone holding Gubernatorial post, CBI quizzed West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan as a `witness` in connection with its probe into allegations of bribery in the Rs 3600-crore VVIP chopper deal with AgustaWestland.

A CBI team questioned Narayanan at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata after it had sought time for the same on June 24, sources said.

80-year-old Narayanan, who has been prodded to quit as Governor by the new NDA government, recorded his statement and answered questions relating to March one, 2005 meeting in which a decision was taken to reduce "service ceiling" (or the altitude at which a helicopter can fly) from the 6000 metres to 4500 metres.
This is for the first time that a serving Governor has been questioned by CBI.

During the questioning spread well over two hours, Narayanan, who was the former National Security Advisor, explained the rationale behind the decision and also cited that his predecessor in the previous NDA government Brajesh Mishra had decided to lower the service ceiling in December 2003.

Narayanan was appointed as Governor of West Bengal in 2010.

After this, CBI will now examine and record the statement of Goa Governor BV Wanchoo as he was also part of of the meeting in 2005 that allowed key changes in the technical specifications of the chopper. He was the chief of elite Special Protection Group (SPG) guarding the Prime Minister before he was appointed as Governor.

CBI had sought permission to record their statements as part of its probe into alleged Rs 3600-crore bribe paid in the deal that was scrapped by the UPA government in December last year.
On Tuesday, Centre had sought an opinion of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on whether serving Governors can be questioned, as former Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran had cautioned that Governors cannot be questioned, even as witnesses, till they relinquish their post.

The DoPT had reportedly written to the Law Ministry seeking an opinion from Rohatgi on whether Governors can be questioned as witnesses under CrPC.

All CBI requests seeking legal opinions are routed through the DoPT.

In the UPA government, the DoPT wanted the AG to give an opinion on the issue, but since the then AG, GE Vahanvati was unwell, the matter was referred to the Solicitor General.

With the new AG taking charge recently, the DoPT now has sought his opinion on the issue.

Parasaran had said the two -- BV Wanchoo and MK Narayanan, the Goa and West Bengal governors, respectively -- could only be questioned after they relinquish their high constitutional posts.

While, the CBI wanted to record the statements as part of its probe into the alleged payment of Rs 360 crore as bribe in the deal which was scrapped by the UPA government in January this year.

So far, CBI has named former Air Chief SP Tyagi, his cousins and several others, in its First Information Report in the case.

The deal is worth Rs 3,600 crore and was signed in 2010 for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the Air Force for ferrying VVIPs including the President, Vice President and the Prime Minister.

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