A Delhi court today decided to hear on May 11 the CBI’s plea seeking a direction to allow it to go for further probe into the politically sensitive Rs 64-crore Bofors payoff case. The matter came up before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Anuj Agarwal, who posted it for hearing on May 11 after noting that the original records file pertaining to the case was with the Supreme Court.
“File has not come yet. Put up for consideration on May 11,” the ACMM said.
The court had on February 17 deferred the matter for today due to non-availability of documents which have been provided to the apex court as it is seized of an appeal by BJP leader Ajay Agrawal challenging the May 31, 2005 verdict of the Delhi High Court quashing all charges against the accused.
Agrawal, who contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, had filed the appeal in the apex court after the CBI had failed to challenge the high court verdict in the top court within the mandatory 90 days period.
The CBI had on February 1 moved the trial court seeking permission for further probe the matter saying it had come across fresh material and evidence.
A day after the agency had also filed an appeal against the high court decision in the Supreme Court.
After the CBI, the BJP leader had also moved the trial court supporting the plea of the probe agency in the case.
During the hearing, advocate Ajay Agarwal today told the court that the Supreme Court is likely to constitute a new bench to hear the matter soon as Justice AM Khanwilkar has recused himself from the case.
The court will also consider, on the next date of hearing, his plea asking it to grant permission to the CBI to reinvestigate the case.
The agency had swung into action to approach the trial court and the apex court 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 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, 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 IPC 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 — S P Hinduja, G P Hinduja and P P Hinduja — 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 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 Bhatnagar, Ardbo and Chadda.