Attorney General K K Venugopal has advised the government that the CBI should not file a special leave petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court in a case related to the Bofors scandal as it is likely to be dismissed on grounds of delay and “could well prejudice its stand even as a respondent in the appeals already pending”. It will be better, the Attorney General has said, if the CBI remains a respondent and presents its stand.
In a letter to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Venugopal said that 12 years have passed since the May 31, 2005 order of the Delhi High Court, quashing corruption charges against the three Hinduja brothers in the scandal related to the purchase of 155 mm howitzers from Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors.
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, one of the accused in the case, was given a clean chit by the Delhi High Court in February 2004. “Any SLP filed before the Supreme Court at this stage, in my view, is likely to be dismissed by the court on account of the delay itself,” the Attorney General said.
File notings subsequent to the High Court order, Venugopal said, showed that “the issue regarding the feasibility of challenging the said judgment in the Supreme Court was considered at various levels”.
The Director of Prosecution of CBI and Deputy Legal Adviser (Ministry of Law and Justice) were of the view that “the present was not a fit case for filing a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court of India”. The then Additional Solicitor General too was of the same opinion, the letter pointed out.
“The record does not reveal any significant events or special circumstances which could be said to constitute sufficient cause for not approaching the Supreme Court within the 90 days permitted by law, or at any time thereafter within the last so many years. It is worth noting that the present government has been in position for more than three years now. In the circumstances, the long delay in approaching the court will be difficult to satisfactorily explain to the court,” the Attorney General said.
Venugopal pointed out that the matter is “still alive” in the form of petitions filed by Ajay Kumar Aggarwal and Raj Kumar Pandey and the CBI could present its stand when these are heard. “Thus, the matter is still alive and the opportunity for CBI to present its case before the Supreme Court is not entirely lost.”
“It would be advisable for the CBI to canvass its stand as a respondent in the pending matters, rather than take the risk of filing its own SLP at this highly belated stage. A dismissal of its SLP could well prejudice its stand even as a respondent in the appeals already pending in the Supreme Court,” he said.
Aggarwal’s plea had come up for hearing before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra on January 16. The bench asked the petitioner to first explain how a third party could intervene and get a criminal case reopened.