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The Chhattisgarh government today told the Supreme Court that Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj Abhiyan was shifting its "political battle" to the court in the garb of a petition for probe against Chief Minister Raman Singh in the purchase of an Agusta helicopter for VVIP use. The state government contended that the party, which has recently attained the status of a political party, has directly approached the apex court without lodging an FIR and were trying to give a "political colour" to the plea by making allegations against the Chief Minister. A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said it would first hear on August 23 the preliminary objections raised by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, representing the state, that the petition was not maintainable. Rohatgi said that Swaraj Abhiyan, which is seeking an SIT probe into alleged irregularities in the purchase of an Agusta helicopter for VVIP use by the Chhattisgarh government, should have approached the state police first for registration of an FIR in the matter. "Is it the law that for every criminal offence, you come to the Supreme Court? Why they have not gone to register an FIR and if the FIR was not lodged, they could have approached the trial court with a plea under section 156(3) of the CrPC for direction to the police to register an FIR.
They have directly come to the Supreme Court," he said. "Just because they have given a colour to the petition that the Chief Minister is allegedly involved so they have come to the Supreme Court directly," he told the bench, that also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar. The Attorney General argued that Swaraj Abhiyan has now been registered as a political party and was also contesting the MCD elections in Delhi and "they are ultimately shifting the political battle here." Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that the apex court can deal with the matter as the issue whether a political party can file a public interest litigation (PIL) has already been dealt with by the Supreme Court as well as high courts. "There are stark facts in this case which the Attorney General does not want us to go into as the Chief Minister is from the party which is in power in the Centre," he said. Bhushan also argued that the apex court, on a number of occasions, has entertained such writ petitions filed by political parties or personalities. Rohatgi countered the submissions, saying "after so many years, this court has to take a holistic look whether this kind of petition can be entertained directly by the Supreme Court. Why they (petitioner) have not gone to the trial court or the high court? This court is flooded with petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution". The bench said it would deal with preliminary objections raised by the Attorney General "once and for all" and fixed the matter for further hearing on August 23. Swaraj Abhiyan is led by former Aam Aadmi Party members including psephologist Yogendra Yadav, advocate Prashant Bhushan and others. The apex court had on September 23 last year asked the Centre to clarify its stand on the plea which also sought an SIT probe into some foreign bank accounts purportedly linked to the son of Chief Minister Raman Singh. The Centre had earlier contended that they have cancelled all contracts with Agusta Westland after the allegations of irregularities surfaced. The petition has sought an SIT probe into the purchase of a VIP chopper in 2007-08 by the state government. "The actions of the Chhattisgarh government in issuing a pre-decided tender inviting bids for the purchase of specific model of a specific brand of helicopter for VIP movement shows a complete mala fide intention on the part of the respondents to subvert the tendering process and to make sure that a pre-decided seller would be given the contract," the plea has alleged. "The petitioner is also seeking an inquiry into the alleged offshore accounts of Abhishek Singh (son of Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh) a few months after the alleged scam in the purchase of Agusta helicopter for VIP use," it has claimed. It has also alleged that so far no genuine attempt has been made to investigate this deal.