SC declines to entertain CBI appeal in Bofors case

"We are not convinced with the explanation given by the CBI on the delay," a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi told Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. (DH File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to entertain an appeal filed by the CBI against discharge of the accused in the Rs 64 crore Bofors pay off case, saying that there was an inordinate delay of 4,522 days in approaching the top court.

"We are not convinced with the explanation given by the CBI on the delay," a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi told Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

More than 12 years after Delhi High Court's order, the CBI had in February approached the Supreme Court challenging quashing of charges against the accused, citing “involvement of powerful people” as the reason for its “checkered history”.

The court, however, said the CBI is already a party to an appeal filed by the complainant, advocate Ajay Agrawal.

"The CBI would be entitled to raise all its pleas at the time of hearing," the bench, also comprising Justices K M Joseph and Hemant Gupta, said.

The CBI had early this year filed an appeal against the May 31, 2005 decision of the Delhi High Court quashing charges against all the accused persons, including industrialist Srichand P Hinduja, in the case.

During the hearing, Agrawal sought an early date of hearing, which the court also refused.

Attorney General Venugopal also sought clarification that the apex court's order should not be treated as a restraint on the CBI for further investigation. The court, again, refused to pass any such order.

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.

In its plea before the top court, the CBI said, "In the present case, given the gravity of the offences and the weighty public interest involved, it is submitted that this court would decide this petition not on the basis of the time but on the touchstone of the necessity to ensure that the guilty do not escape the long arm of the law and go unpunished."

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SC declines to entertain CBI appeal in Bofors case

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