The CBI on Friday, 2 February, 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 KK Venugopal had recently advised the agency against moving a petition against the high court verdict after a delay of 12 years.
Sources, however, said that after consultations, law officers were in favour of the appeal as the CBI came out with “some important documents and evidence” to challenge the high court order.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed the appeal against the 31 May 2005 decision of the high court by which all accused, including Europe-based industrialists Hinduja brothers, were discharged from the Rs 64-crore pay-off case.
Earlier, the attorney general had advised the CBI to make out a case as a respondent in the petition filed by BJP leader Ajay Agarwal, who had challenged the 2005 high court order after the agency had failed to file a special leave petition (appeal) within the mandatory limitation period of 90 days.
Agarwal, who contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has been pursuing the case for over a decade in the apex court.
Justice RS Sodhi (since retired) of the Delhi High Court on 31 May 2005, had quashed the CBI case in the Bofors pay-off scam.
Before this, another judge of the high court, retired Justice JD Kapoor, had on 4 February 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.
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 24 March 1986.
Swedish Radio on 16 April 1987, had claimed that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel.
The CBI on 22 January 1990 had registered the FIR for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the IPC 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.
It had 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 22 October 1999, against Chadda, Ottavio Quattrocchi, the then defence secretary SK Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors company. A supplementary charge sheet was filed against the Hinduja brothers on 9 October 2000.
A special CBI court in Delhi on 4 March 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 29-30 July 1993, never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution. He passed away on 13 July 2013. The other accused persons who died were Bhatnagar, Chadda and Ardbo.