New Delhi: India has rejected the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on a case related
to British national James Christian Michel and maintained that the conclusions drawn by the Working Group are based on “limited information, biased allegations from an unidentified source”.
“At the outset, we would like to make it clear that the Working Group is not a judicial body, and therefore, its opinions are not legally binding on the Member States,” MEA spokesman Anurag Srivastava has said.
He said: “We have seen selective leaks of the opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning the case of Mr. Christian James Michel, even before its official release…We regret that the conclusions drawn by the Working Group are based on limited information, biased allegations from an unidentified source and on an inaccurate understanding of India’s criminal justice system”.
He said, the Government of India provided “timely information” on this issue to the Working Group in June
2020, at their request.
“The extradition was done entirely in accordance with the provisions of the Extradition Treaty signed between two sovereign States. The arrest and subsequent custody were done as per the due process of law and cannot be considered arbitrary on any grounds,” he said.
Michel was extradited from the United Arab Emirates for the scam of the UPA era. “At no time was the accused denied his rights to legal counsel or a fair hearing,” Srivastava said adding the fact that he has been able to approach Courts on multiple occasions including the higher judiciary is itself proof of this.
“There have also been no restrictions on consular access by the authorities. He has been treated at par as other detainees and provided all facilities by the prison authorities as per rules. The Working Group should be aware that India has a robust grievance redressal mechanisms against allegations of violations of human rights in a vibrant and independent judiciary and a ‘category A’ National Human Rights Commission compliant with the Paris Principles.”
MEA spokesman said, “The allegations which form the basis of the opinion rendered by the Working Group are contrary to facts. The Government of India therefore, rejects the opinion rendered by the Working Group”.
India, as a responsible member of the Human Rights Council, will continue to cooperate with the Working Group and provide it with the necessary information to the extent possible under Indian laws, to promote and protect human rights of all, he said.
James was extradited from Dubai, and is currently lodged in Tihar Jail.
The ‘aviation consultant’ was arrested in connection with the AgustaWestland chopper deal scam of the UPA era on December 22, 2018. It has been alleged that James Michel was involved in the 2010 sale of the VVIP helicopters to the Indian government.
Reports by a foreign news agency said in an order (which has not officially been released) the UN body
reportedly asserted that the United Arab Emirates had unlawfully arrested, and handed over Michel to the
Indian agencies. It raised concerns that Michel’s extradition “was a de facto swap” for India’s capture and return
of a high-profile detainee to Dubai in March 2018, without providing more detail.
The AugustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, the Indian helicopter bribery scandal during the Congress-led UPA government refers to a multimillion-dollar corruption case in India, wherein money was paid to middlemen
and Indian officials and others in 2006 and 2007 to purchase helicopters for high-level politicians. As per the CBI, this amounted to ₹2.5 billion (US$35 million), transferred through bank accounts in the UK and UAE.
The scam had come to light in early 2013