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Chopper deal: CBI wants to quiz governors Narayanan, Wanchoo as witnesses

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-05-2014 PTI

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has clarified to law ministry that it wants to question two governors M.K. Narayanan and B.V. Wanchoo of West Bengal and Goa respectively as “witnesses” in connection with its probe in the VVIP helicopter deal.

The law ministry, after initially denying permission to the CBI, recently asked the agency about its motive to question the two governors as they were enjoying constitutional immunity.

After having been denied the permission, the CBI had petitioned the President Pranab Mukherjee’s secretariat as it was the appointing authority for the governors.

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. But recently, the law ministry again wrote a letter asking the agency to state its position of examining the two, official sources said.

In its reply, the CBI said it wanted to record statements of Narayanan, who was the then National Security Advisor (NSA), and Wanchoo, who was the then 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 CBI had sought permission to record their statement as part of its probe into alleged payment of Rs360-crore bribe in the deal that was scrapped by the government last year.

While reasoning for 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 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 deal vis a vis its competitor Sikorsky.

The CBI has registered a case against former Indian Air Force (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 Narayanan or Wanchoo.

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

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