The CBI on Friday filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging a 2005 order of the Delhi High Court quashing all charges against accused persons in the politically sensitive Bofors pay-off case. The filing of the appeal assumes significance as Attorney General K K Venugopal had recently advised the agency against moving a petition against the high court verdict after a delay of 12 years.
What is the Bofors scam?
On March 18, 1986, India signed a Rs 1,437-crore deal with Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 155 mm Howitzer guns for the Army. A year later, on April 16, 1987, a Swedish radio channel alleged that the company had bribed top Indian politicians and defence personnel to secure the contract. The scandal rocked the Rajiv Gandhi-led government in the late 1980s. On January 22, 1990, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) lodged an FIR against the then president of Bofors Martin Ardbo, the alleged middleman Win Chadda and the Hinduja brothers for criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery.
It was 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.
HC exonerates all accused
Justice R S Sodhi (since retired) of the Delhi High Court on May 31, 2005, had quashed the CBI case in the Bofors pay-off scam. Before that, retired Justice J D Kapoor, had on February 4, 2004, exonerated late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in the case and directed the framing of charge of forgery under section 465 of the Indian Penal Code against Bofors company.
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 passed away on July 13, 2013. The other accused persons who died were Bhatnagar, Chadda and Ardbo.
(With inputs from agencies)