Former IAF chief Shashindra Pal Tyagi claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office was party to the decision in 2005 to change the operational requirements of choppers for IAF’s VVIP squadron, which allegedly resulted in AgustaWestland bagging the order.
Manmohan Singh was the prime minister at the time. The charge, fraught with serious political implications, was leveled by Tyagi’s defence counsel N Hariharan while opposing CBI’s plea for a 10-day remand for the former air chief and co accused — his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi and Delhi-based lawyer and alleged middleman Gautam Khaitan.
Hariharan claimed that the decision to change the specifications was not an “individual” but a “collective one”, and was taken much before Tyagi became the air chief. He also said Tyagi was never a part of the procurement process for the choppers.
Tyagi and others have been accused of rigging the operational requirements — bringing down the operational flying height ceiling from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres — to help AgustaWestland bag the Rs 3,564-crore order for 12 helicopters. Metropolitan magistrate Sujith Saurabh sent all three accused to CBI custody for four days, till December 14. Tyagi is the first former service chief to be arrested.
Tyagi’s defence can create complications for Congress, with BJP accusing it of complicity in the scam.
“It was not an individual decision. It was a collective decision of which the PMO was also a part. The file moved along so many officers – none of them have been arraigned (in the case) as accused,” Tyagi’s counsel Hariharan said as he opposed CBI’s bid for a 10-day remand for the three accused.
Hariharan cited the CBI FIR to say the PMO in a meeting in 2003 had suggested the Chief of Air Staff and defence secretary to jointly review the matter related to the operational requirements of the helicopters, especially for keeping the service flight ceiling at 4,500m. The senior lawyer argued that the transactions related to the procurement of choppers were under way before his client assumed office as the air chief on January 1, 2005.