A Delhi court has decided to hear on 4 December the CBI’s plea seeking a direction to allow it to go for further probe into the politically sensitive Rs 64-crore Bofors payoff case.
The matter came up before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ashu Garg who deferred the matter after noting the submission of advocate Ajay Agrawal that the original records will come back to the court after the Supreme Court hears his matter which is likely to come up for hearing in the second week of October.
The court was told that the original records file pertaining to the case was with the apex court.
The court had earlier deferred the matter due to unavailability of documents which had been provided to the apex court.
The Supreme Court was seized of Agrawal’s plea challenging the 31 May 2005 verdict of the Delhi High Court quashing all charges against the accused.
Agrawal, who had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli against then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, had filed the appeal in the top court after the CBI had failed to challenge the high court verdict within the mandatory 90 days period.
The CBI had on 1 February moved the trial court seeking permission for further probe in the matter saying it had come across fresh material and evidence.
A day after it had also filed an appeal against the high court decision in the Supreme Court.
After the CBI, the BJP leader had also moved the trial court supporting the plea of the probe agency in the case.
The agency had swung into action after the Attorney General had orally given it a go ahead to file the appeal in the case in which it cited the October 2017 interview of private detective Michael Hershman, alleging that the then Rajiv Gandhi government had sabotaged his probe.
Justice RS Sodhi (since retired) of the Delhi High Court had on 31 May 2005 quashed the CBI case in the Bofors pay-off scam.
Before the 2005 verdict of Justice Sodhi, another judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice JD Kapoor (since retired), had on 4 February 2004 exonerated the late prime minister in the case and directed the framing of charge of forgery under section 465 of the IPC 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 chargesheet in the case was filed on October 22, 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 – SP Hinduja, GP Hinduja and PP Hinduja – 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 India 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 who died are Bhatnagar, Ardbo and Chadda.