The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday withdrew its application from a Delhi court seeking permission to further probe the politically sensitive Rs. 64-crore Bofors payoff case.
Private petitioner Ajay Agarwal also withdrew his plea seeking further probe in the case.
On February 1, 2018, the CBI had moved the trial court seeking permission for further probe in the matter saying it had come across fresh material and evidence.
The agency on Thursday submitted before the court that decision on further course of action would be taken by it and wanted to withdraw the application for now.
Taking note of CBI’s stand, the judge said: “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.”
Petitioner Agarwal had earlier accused former CBI Director Alok Verma of allegedly hatching a conspiracy to derail and scuttle further probe in the case.
However, Agrawal, is now a rebel BJP leader after he was denied Lok Sabha ticket from Rai Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier in December, 2018, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Naveen Kashyap had questioned as to why the CBI needed court’s permission to proceed with further investigation in matter and also asked the probe agency to place on record case laws to show that it needs permission from the court to probe further in Bofors case.
The Supreme Court had in November 2018 dismissed the CBI appeal against the Delhi High Court’s 2005 verdict discharging all the accused, including the Hinduja brothers in the case.
The apex court rejected the CBI plea seeking condonation of the 13-year delay in filing the appeal against the May 31, 2005 judgement of the high court saying it is not convinced with the grounds furnished by the agency.
The agency had swung into action for a permission for further probe in the case 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.
Before the 2005 verdict of Justice R S Sodhi (since retired), another judge of the Delhi High Court, retired Justice J D Kapoor, had on February 4, 2004, exonerated Rajiv Gandhi 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 units of 155 mm Howitzer guns for the Indian Army was entered into on March 24, 1986.
Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, had claimed that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel.
The CBI on January 22, 1990 registered the FIR for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the India Penal Code 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 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 — S P Hinduja, G P Hinduja and P P Hinduja — on October 9, 2000.
A special CBI court in Delhi on March 4, 2011, had discharged Quattrocchi in 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 July 29-30, 1993, never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution. He passed away on July 13, 2013. The other accused who died are Bhatnagar, Ardbo and Chadda.
(With PTI inputs)