CBI on Bofors: Only SC or govt can reopen case

15-07-2017
DH

The CBI has cleary stated that it could reinvestigate the Bofors case only if the Supreme Court or the government specifically ordered it to do so. A day earlier, a subcommittee on defence attached to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, had apparently suggested that the case is reopened, citing several “loopholes” in the previous investigation. 

CBI officials indicated that they would need an order from a court or the Union government to reinvestigate the case. 

A subcommittee of a parliamentary panel could not recommend to the CBI to start a probe, they said. They were responding to reports that the panel has given the CBI two weeks to report back on “the action it has taken”.

On July 13, when CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma appeared before the parliamentary subcommittee, the issue was raised. The panel said it has been probing “non-compliance” of certain aspects of the CAG report of 1986 regarding the Bofors deal. 

It reportedly asked Verma to put up the case considering “systematic failure” in the Bofors contract as well as charges of bribery against top political leaders and officials.

Several members, including panel chief Bhartruhari Mahtab and BJP’s Nishikant Dubey, apparently wanted the CBI to challenge the 2004 Delhi High Court order.

They also asked Verma why the investigating agency did not go to the Supreme Court earlier. The MPs were reportedly told that the CBI’s request for a go-ahead was denied by the Congress-led UPA, which was in power. 

The Bofors case relates to the payment of kickbacks for the purchase of 155 mm artillery guns from Swedish manufacturer AB Bofors. 

The scandal surfaced following a Swedish radio broadcast in the late 1980s. The kickbacks became a key poll issue in the November parliamentary elections in 1989. The Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress was voted out of power.However, on February 4, 2004, the Delhi High Court exonerated Rajiv in the case and in 2005, the same court cleared the Hindujas (who were investigated by the CBI) of any involvement. 

Since then the case has remained closed as the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government did not challenge the high court order. 

On September 29, 2009, the Manmohan Singh government informed the Supreme Court about its decision to withdraw the cases relating to the Bofors scam against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi as he could not be extradited. 

Quattrocchi, who was considered close to the Gandhis, had figured prominently during the probe. In early 2011, an Income Tax tribunal ruled that a commission of over Rs 40 crore was indeed paid to Quattrocchi and another businessman Win Chadha in violation of Indian laws for the deal. 

But on March 4, 2011, a Delhi court, realising the futility of the exercise, allowed the CBI to drop all charges against Quattrocchi and close the case.

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