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Tuesday 7 July 2020

Bofors case: Crucial hearing in SC today

New Delhi: A crucial hearing is listed for today in the Supreme Court in the politically-sensitive Rs 64 crore Bofors pay-off case in which a BJP leader, who is pursuing the matter for over a decade, has been asked to explain his locus in filing the petition as a third party.

Advocate Ajay Agrawal, who contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has also filed an application seeking recusal of Chief Justice Dipak Misra from hearing the matter.

The appeal filed by him against the 31 May 2005 judgement of the Delhi High Court quashing all charges against the accused persons is listed for hearing tomorrow before the bench comprising Chief Justice Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.

During the last hearing on 16 January, the bench had asked Agrawal to explain his locus in filing the appeal and satisfy it how could the matter be entertained at the instance of a third party.

Later, he filed an application seeking the CJI’s recusal alleging that the chief justice was “prejudiced” and “bent upon” dismissing the case without going into the merits.

Today, Agrawal filed an affidavit alleging that the CJI was under tremendous pressure from the Congress because of the impeachment motion being discussed by the opposition parties and claimed that senior advocate Kapil Sibal was taking a lead role in all those deliberations.

“Deponent understands and has highest regards for his lordship CJI but because of these sequence of events, an inference is reached that CJI is under tremendous pressure from the Congress because of the impeachment motion being discussed by the opposition parties.

“Kapil Sibal is taking a lead role in all those deliberations as could be seen in all the annexed news items and the same person had appeared without any authority before the court and made a false statement that he appeared for late Rajiv Gandhi while deponent found that he appeared for Hindujas before the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court on many occasions,” Agrawal said in the affidavit.

While seeking recusal of the CJI, the BJP leader referred to the 16 January hearing to draw an inference that the bench headed by the CJI would, in all likelihood, dismiss the appeal filed by him against the 31 May 2005 judgement of the Delhi High Court discharging all the accused in the case.

At the last hearing, he had said, Sibal was allowed to speak even after he objected to it. He said the CJI did not stop Sibal from interfering in the matter.

The lawyer said there were at least three occasions during the hearing when the court was about to dismiss the matter because of Sibal’s “unwarranted” interference.

Before the 2005 verdict of Justice Sodhi, another judge of the Delhi High Court, retired Justice JD Kapoor, 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 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 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 are Bhatnagar, Chadda and Ardbo.


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