CBI Likely to Gun for Re­open­ing Bo­fors Case by Sup­port­ing SLP

Agency de­cided to back plea filed in SC af­ter its top deck re­viewed case

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Raghav.Ohri@ times­group.com

New Delhi: The long-run­ning Bo­fors con­tro­versy may roil na­tional pol­i­tics again — the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) is all set to sup­port the ap­peal for re­open­ing the case when the mat­ter is heard by the Supreme Court.

Dur­ing Congress-led UPA’s term in of­fice, CBI had noted that the then gov­ern­ment was of the view there was no case for an ap­peal. ET has re­viewed sev­eral in­ter­nal CBI doc­u­ments and file not­ings for this story. The ap­pel­lant is BJP mem­ber

dis­charged Bo­fors ac­cused in 2005

was filed by ad­vo­cate and BJP mem­ber in the same year for re­open­ing the case

keen on chal­leng­ing the dis­charge back then

govt didn’t see merit in ap­peal­ing against HC ver­dict

and ad­vo­cate Ajay Ag­gar­wal who has asked for an early hear­ing of the special leave pe­ti­tion (SLP), pend­ing since Septem­ber 2005. The ac­cused in the Bo­fors case were dis­charged by the Delhi High Court in May 2005.

Bo­fors hit na­tional head­lines in 1987. Ac­cu­sa­tions of bribes be­ing paid for buy­ing the Swedish ar­tillery gun em­broiled the then prime min­is­ter, Ra­jiv Gandhi, and Ital­ian busi­ness­man Ot­tavio Qu­at­troc­chi, con­sid­ered to be fam­ily friend of Nehru-Gand­his, who then as now run Congress.

The agency took a de­ci­sion in Jan­uary this year to not op­pose the Bo­fors SLP. The de­ci­sion is piv­otal be­cause CBI is both a ma­te­rial re­spon­dent in the case and the agency that in­ves­ti­gated the Bo­fors case.

An SLP CBI was But UPA

ET re­viewed CBI’s files and file not­ings since 2005 on the issue which show that in 2006 the then Di­rec­tor of Pros­e­cu­tion (DoP), CBI, who’s re­spon­si­ble for su­per­vis­ing and con­duct­ing the agency’s cases, had ar­gued against fil­ing an ap­peal against the Delhi high court or­der.

This changed in Jan­uary this year, when DoP agreed with the agency’s top of­fi­cers. The rel­e­vant file not­ing of Jan­uary 13 reads: “Our stand shall be in con­so­nance with the ear­lier de­ci­sion to file the SLP but since no per­mis­sion was given to CBI by the con­cerned min­istry we did not go for SLP.”

Dur­ing the Congress-led UPA-1 gov­ern­ment’s term, the then DoP had ar­gued that the Delhi high court’s de­ci­sion to dis­charge the ac­cused was based on “cor­rect propo­si­tion of law”, and that it was “not a fit case worth chal­leng­ing” in the Supreme Court.

The law min­istry agreed with the DoP’s ar­gu­ment. The not­ing read that the law min­istry, the depart­ment of le­gal af­fairs and the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral have “agreed with the views of the Di­rec­tor of Pros­e­cu­tion of CBI that the judge­ment of the High Court is based on the cor­rect propo­si­tion of law”.

In wake of this, it was sug­gested that the ap­peal filed by Ag­gar­wal should be “op­posed by the gov­ern­ment/CBI”.

In­ter­est­ingly, DoP back then re­ported to the law min­istry. In 2013, this was changed and CBI di­rec­tor since then has the fi­nal say on fil­ing of cases. CBI doc­u­ments show that on Jan­uary 10 this year CBI brass de­cided to hold a high­level meet­ing that in­cluded DoP. This was pre­ceded by a re­view of the 12-year-old Bo­fors file (start­ing 2005, post the Delhi high court dis­charge).

It was noted that the 2006 de­ci­sion by CBI to not pur­sue an ap­peal was “con­di­tional”, mean­ing there was scope for re­view.

KEY MEET­ING

The CBI brass meet­ing also took cog­ni­sance of this file not­ing of Septem­ber 12, 2006, by the then di­rec­tor: “Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion in the mat­ter is fi­nal. Mat­ter may, nev­er­the­less, be dis­cussed with ASG Gopal Subra­ma­nium for de­cid­ing fur­ther course of ac­tion”.

An­other not­ing (Septem­ber 29, 2006) by a se­nior SP, CBI read that the de­ci­sion taken then was to “not file a re­ply” to Ag­gar­wal’s SLP and to han­dle the case “care­fully”. In­ter­nal not­ings clearly show that CBI was keen on fil­ing an ap­peal in the apex court. On Novem­ber 9, 2005 a se­nior CBI of­fi­cer un­der­lined the need to file an ap­peal “on pri­or­ity”. Af­ter Ag­gar­wal had moved the SC against the dis­charge of ac­cused in Bo­fors case, CBI had to form a view to be con­veyed to the court.

With the ap­proval of then di­rec­tor, CBI had in­ti­mated (in Novem­ber 2005) Depart­ment of Per­son­nel and Train­ing (DoPT) that “CBI was of the view that it is a fit case for mov­ing the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia (GoI) for per­mis­sion to file an SLP”.

The not­ing fur­ther read “it was re­quested that the pro­posal of CBI for fil­ing SLP may be con­sid­ered in con­sul­ta­tion with ap­pro­pri­ate le­gal au­thor­i­ties and a de­ci­sion thereon com­mu­ni­cated to CBI on pri­or­ity”. Show­ing ur­gency, the agency had ap­proached an ad­di­tional so­lic­i­tor gen­eral (ASG) and fur­nished the req­ui­site doc­u­ments. But there was no move­ment on re­open­ing the case when the UPA gov­ern­ment was in power.

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