The Central Bureau of Investigation has clarified to the 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 President Pranab Mukherjee’s Secretariat, as it was the appointing authority for the governors. While rejecting the plea of the 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, and Wanchoo, who was the then head of elite Special Protection Group 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 a Rs 360-crore bribe in the deal that was scrapped by the government last year.
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.
CBI has registered a case against former Indian Air Force 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 SPG and other top officials of the Prime Minister’s Office but the agency did not get permission to question either Narayanan or Wanchoo.