Delhi: Amidst the election battle, Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) decision to withdraw its application seeking permission to further probe the Rs 64-crore Bofors payoff case, may come as a big relief to the Congress party.
As reported by ANI, CBI today informed a Delhi Court that it wants to withdraw its application seeking permission to further probe the Bofors case. Private petitioner Ajay Aggarwal also wants to withdraw his plea.
The investigating agency informed the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Navin Kumar Kashyap, about its decision and said that a decision on future course of action in the matter will be taken by it at a later date.
“For the reason best known to the CBI, in case they want to withdraw the application, they have the right as they are the applicants,” Magistrate Kashyap reportedly said.
CBI had filed a fresh application in the Delhi trial court on February 1, 2018 stating that it had come across fresh material and evidence against the accused. On December 4, 2018, the court had questioned as to why the CBI required its permission to further probe the matter.
The scam dates back to the late 1980s, when the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government had signed a Rs. 1,437 crore arms deal with the Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 units of 155-mm Howitzer guns for the Indian Army on March 24, 1986. In 1987, the Swedish Radio had alleged that AB Bofors had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel.
The first charge sheet in the matter was filed on October 22, 1999 against alleged middleman Win Chadda, Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, the then defence secretary S K Bhatnagar, AB Bofors’ chief Martin Ardbo and the Bofors company. A supplementary charge sheet was filed on October 9, 2000, against London-based billionaires, Hinduja brothers. Delhi High Court had cleared all the accused of all charges in 2005.
A special CBI court, on March 4, 2011, 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.
On February 2, 2018, the CBI filed an appeal in the Supreme Court (SC) against the 2005 Delhi High Court order quashing charges against the accused. However, the SC dismissed the plea in November, 2018 citing inordinate delay.
The decision of the CBI comes at a time when the entire nation is energised with the 2019 general elections. It also comes just a few days after the SC’s decision on May 10, to reserve its verdict in the matter of a batch of review petitions against the December 2018 judgment in the Rafale case. Notably, Congress has accused the ruling BJP of corruption in the Rafale deal.