CBI withdraws application from Delhi court seeking permission for further probe in Bofors case

Published: May 16, 2019, 15:09 IST | mid-day online desk | New Delhi

The CBI told Navin Kumar Kashyap, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate that it wants to withdraw the application filed on February 1, 2018

Representational image
Representational image

New Delhi: The CBI withdrew from a Delhi court its application on Thursday that had sought permission to further probe the politically sensitive Rs 64-crore Bofors payoff case. The agency told Navin Kumar Kashyap, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate that it wants to withdraw the application filed on February 1, 2018. It had moved the trial court seeking permission for further probe in the matter saying it had come across fresh material and evidence. The agency submitted before the court on Thursday that decision on the further course of action would be taken by it and wanted to withdraw the application for now.

Taking note of CBI's stand, the judge said: "For the reason best known to the CBI, in case they want to withdraw the application, they have the right as they are the applicants." The court had questioned as to why the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) required its permission to further probe the matter on December 4, 2018. The CBI had also filed an appeal in the Supreme Court on February 2, 2018, against the May 31, 2005 verdict of the Delhi high Court discharging all the accused in the case. The apex court had on November 2, 2018, dismissed CBI's appeal in which it had sought condonation of the 13-year delay in filing the appeal against the high court judgment.

The apex court had said that it was not convinced with the grounds of the CBI to condone over 4,500 days' delay in filing the appeal. However, one of the appeals is still alive in the apex court in which CBI is one of the respondents and the top court on November 2, 2018, said that the agency can assist in the matter as respondent. The apex court said the CBI can raise all grounds in the appeal against the high court verdict filed by advocate Ajay Agrawal who has also challenged the judgment.

Ajay Agrawal, who has now become a rebel BJP leader after he was denied Lok Sabha ticket in Uttar Pradesh from Rai Bareilly in 2005 had challenged the high court verdict after the CBI did not file the appeal in the mandatory 90 days period. The agency had swung into action for permission for further probe in the case after the Attorney General had orally given it the go-ahead to file the appeal in the case in which it cited the October 2017 interview of private detective Michael Hershman, alleging that the then Rajiv Gandhi government had sabotaged his probe. Justice R S Sodhi (since retired) of the Delhi High Court had on May 31, 2005, quashed the CBI case in the Bofors pay-off scam.

Before the 2005 verdict of Justice Sodhi, another judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice J D Kapoor (since retired), had on February 4, 2004, exonerated the late prime minister in the case and directed the framing of charge of forgery under section 465 of the IPC against Bofors company. The Rs 1,437-crore deal between India and Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 155mm howitzer guns for the Indian Army was entered into on March 24, 1986. Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, claimed that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel.
The CBI on January 22, 1990, registered the FIR for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the India Penal Code and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Martin Ardbo, the then president of AB Bofors, alleged middleman Win Chadda and the Hinduja brothers.

It alleged that certain public servants and private persons in India and abroad had entered into a criminal conspiracy between 1982 and 1987 in pursuance of which the offences of bribery, corruption, cheating and forgery were committed. The first charge sheet in the case was filed on October 22, 1999, against Chadda, Ottavio Quattrocchi, the then defence secretary S K Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors company. A supplementary charge sheet was filed against the Hinduja brothers -- G P Hinduja, S P Hinduja, and P P Hinduja -- on October 9, 2000. A special CBI court in Delhi on March 4, 2011, had discharged Quattrocchi in the case, saying the country could not afford to spend hard-earned money on his extradition which had already cost Rs 250 crore. Quattrocchi, who had fled from India on July 29-30, 1993, never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution. He passed away on July 13, 2013. The other accused who died are Ardbo, Bhatnagar and Chadda.

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Edited by mid-day online desk with inputs from Agencies

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