SC to look if Chhattisgarh committed fraud in AgustaWestland helicopter purchase

New Delhi, Nov 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Chhattisgarh government that it was concerned whether any “fraud” was committed while purchasing a VIP AgustaWestland helicopter.

A division bench of Justice A.K. Goel and Justice U.U. Lalit, wondering why a notice inviting tenders mentioned only AgustaWestland’s name, said there were few questions which the Chhattisgarh government needed to answer.

“You (Chhattisgarh government) need to answer few questions, like explain the alleged sham bid, why only that particular helicopter, opening of foreign bank account (by son of the Chief Minister Raman Singh) at the time of bidding process.”

The court asked senior counsel Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the state government, as to why the notice inviting tenders mentioned the name of AgustaWestland only.

If it found that there was nothing wrong, then it will close the case, said the bench.

During the hearing the government handed over all files and documents on the purchase of AgustaWestland VIP helicopter as it was directed earlier by the bench.

The bench had summoned the files as it was told that the bids were invited in disregard of then state Chief Secretary’s suggestion for floating a global tender to ensure bids from other manufacturers as well.

The court was hearing a petition filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan and T.S. Singhdeo, who is leader of the Opposition in the Chhattisgarh assembly, seeking investigation into the alleged irregularities in the purchase of the helicopter in 2006-2007 and also foreign bank accounts purportedly linked to the son of Chief Minister Raman Singh.

At the outset, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, told the court that the documents received under the RTI show that although the Bell helicopter was denied bid, the government was still hiring it on rent.

The Chhattisgarh government, on the other hand, told the court that there was nothing wrong in the bid and at present, 24 AgustaWestland helicopters were flying in the country.

The court has now posted the matter for hearing on January 13.

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