The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the CBI appeal challenging the 2005 verdict of Delhi High Court in the politically-sensitive Rs 64 crore Bofors pay-off case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it was not convinced with the grounds of the CBI on the delay in filing the appeal.
The apex court, however, said that an appeal against the same HC verdict filed by advocate Ajay Agarwal is pending and the CBI can raise all grounds in it.
he Delhi High Court in its 2005 order had quashed charges against all accused in this case.
On February 2 this year, the CBI had filed an appeal against the May 31, 2005 verdict of the Delhi High Court.
BJP leader and advocate Ajay Agrawal, who is pursuing the matter for over a decade, had filed an appeal in the top court in 2005 itself after the CBI had failed to challenge the high court’s order within the mandatory 90 days period.
Agrawal, who contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, had filed the appeal in which he had also made CBI as one of the respondents.
His appeal was already admitted and is pending.
After the NDA government came to power, there were speculations that CBI would take a call to either respond as respondent in Agrawal’s petition or prefer a separate appeal.
After lot of deliberation, the CBI this year got the nod from the NDA government to file an appeal in the apex court.
The filing of the appeal assumes significance as Attorney General Venugopal in January had advised the agency against moving a petition against the high court verdict after a delay of more than a decade.
Later, after consultations, law officers were in favour of the appeal as the CBI came out with “some important documents and evidence” to challenge the high court order.
Sources in February had said the agency swung into action after the Attorney General orally gave it a go-ahead to file the appeal in the case in which it cited the October 2017 interview of private detective Michael Hershman, who alleged that the then Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government had sabotaged his investigation.
Hershman, who is the president of the US-based private detective firm Fairfax, had claimed in television interviews that Rajiv Gandhi was “furious” when he had found a Swiss bank account “Mont Blanc”.
He had also alleged that the bribe money of the Bofors gun scandal had been parked in the Swiss account.
The CBI in its appeal stated that further investigation was necessary in view of the reports relating to Hershman’s interviews.
Before the 2005 verdict of Justice R S Sodhi (since retired), another judge of the Delhi High Court, retired Justice J D Kapoor, had on February 4, 2004, exonerated the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi 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, had claimed that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel.
The CBI on January 22, 1990 had registered the FIR for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indian 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 had 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 on October 9, 2000.
A special CBI court in Delhi on March 4, 2011, had discharged Quattrocchi from 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 here on July 29-30, 1993, never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution. He died on July 13, 2013.
The other accused persons who died are Bhatnagar, Chadda and Martin Ardbo.
(With PTI inputs)