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Bofors pay-off case: No Supreme Court hearing on Friday

The cause list till Thursday afternoon showed that the petition filed by the CBI was listed for hearing before a bench comprising justices R Banumathi and Indira Banerjee in court number 8 as item number 43.

Devdiscourse News Desk | Newdelhi | Updated: 12-10-2018 01:45 IST | Created: 11-10-2018 20:56 IST
Bofors pay-off case: No Supreme Court hearing on Friday
In the petition filed by Agrawal, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh is appearing for the CBI which has been named as one of the respondents. (Image Credit: Twitter)

The much-awaited scheduled hearing in the politically-sensitive Rs 64 crore Bofors pay-off case will not take place Friday in the Supreme Court as it has been deleted from the cause list which contains a record of businesses for the day.

The cause list till Thursday afternoon showed that the petition filed by the CBI was listed for hearing before a bench comprising justices R Banumathi and Indira Banerjee in court number 8 as item number 43. The matter was deleted from the cause list late Thursday evening.

Another petition filed by advocate and BJP leader Ajay Agrawal was not mentioned in the cause list.

Agrawal said when he contacted an apex court official about the matter not there in the cause list, he was told that it has been deleted by an administrative order.

Some law officers said the CBI was all set to argue on Friday before the Supreme Court to admit its petition in the case which was filed early this year after an inordinate delay of 13 years.

Attorney General K K Venugopal and newly-appointed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta were to appear for the CBI.

In the petition filed by Agrawal, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh is appearing for the CBI which has been named as one of the respondents.

The CBI on February 2 filed its appeal against the May 31, 2005 decision of the Delhi High Court quashing all charges against the accused persons in the case.

The Special Leave Petition (appeal) of the CBI is filed in seven bulky volumes running into 1,782 pages which also contains various annexures.

The agency had failed to file the appeal within the mandatory 90 days period but Agrawal filed the petition challenging the High Court Order on September 17, 2005.

Agrawal, who contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, filed the appeal after the CBI did not challenge the high court order due to the denial of permission by the then UPA government to file a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court.

The BJP leader has been pursuing the case for over a decade.

After a lot of deliberation, the CBI this year got the nod from the NDA government to file an appeal in the apex court.

The filing of the appeal assumes significance as Attorney General Venugopal in January advised the agency against moving a petition against the high court verdict after a delay of more than a decade.

Later 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.

Sources in February had said the agency swung into action after the Attorney General orally gave it the go-ahead to file the appeal in the case in which it cited the October 2017 interview of private detective Michael Hershman, who alleged that the then Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government had sabotaged his investigation.

Hershman, who is the president of the US-based private detective firm Fairfax, had claimed in television interviews that Rajiv Gandhi was "furious" when he had found a Swiss bank account "Mont Blanc".

He had also alleged that the bribe money of the Bofors gun scandal had been parked in the Swiss account.

The CBI in its appeal stated that further investigation was necessary for view of the reports relating to Hershman's interviews.

The CBI filed the appeal against the May 31, 2005 decision of the high court by which all accused, including Europe-based industrialists Hinduja brothers -- S P Hinduja, G P Hinduja and P P Hinduja -- were discharged from the Rs 64-crore pay-off case.

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 155mm 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, had registered the FIR for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indian 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 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 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 on October 9, 2000.

A special CBI court in Delhi on March 4, 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 July 29-30, 1993, never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution. He died on July 13, 2013. The other accused persons who died are Bhatnagar and Chadda.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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