Parliamentary panel frees caged parrot to go after Bofors

After reopening the Babri case against BJP leaders, the agency is set to restart the 30-year-old howitzer case.

Published: 16th July 2017 09:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th July 2017 09:48 AM   |  A+A-

The Hinduja brothers

NEW DELHI: Infused by the recommendations on Thursday of a parliamentary panel headed by Bhartruhari Mahatab of BJD, the CBI is seeking legal opinion to revive the three-decade-old Bofors case.

Political implications are significant since the CBI had reopened the Babri Masjid case against BJP leader L K Advani in March. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court turned down the CBI case against BJP leaders, when UPA was in power. A year later, CBI moved the Supreme Court against the High Court order.

When the CBI had approached the government in 2005 to restart investigations into the Bofors case, it was denied permission. Though the main accused Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman with ties to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, died in July 2013, the Hinduja brothers—Srichand, Gopichand and Prakashchand—who are also accused, can still be tried. Quattrocchi had fled India in 1999 and died in 2013.

The CBI’s move will give ammunition to the ruling NDA government to counter a united Opposition, which is gearing up to corner it on various issues such as cow vigilante and GST in the upcoming Monsoon Session.

The six-member Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) subcommittee on defence is looking into non-compliance of certain aspects of the CAG report of 1986 on the Bofors deal. “Now that the PAC has recommended reopening of the case, we are seeking a legal opinion,” said a CBI official.

A PAC member told The Sunday Standard that during discussions, CBI chief Alok Verma had expressed his intention to proceed with the trial. “CBI was denied permission by the UPA government in 2005, citing the agency’s inability to extradite Quattrocchi. But many other accused are roaming freely. They need to be booked,” said a PAC member. Another member, Nishikant Dubey, is believed to have told the panel that if the case against senior BJP leaders, including L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti, can be revived after judicial intervention, inquiry into other cases can also be restarted.

In 2005, then Attorney General Milon K Banerjee had red-flagged CBI’s plea to proceed against the acquittal of the HIndujas. Now, Attorney General K K Venugopal will be handling the CBI’s fresh plea, since the case has political implications.

The case was finally closed after a plea by the CBI on March 5, 2011, following a Delhi court ruling that “hard-earned” tax-payers’ money could not be spent “on these type of proceedings which are not going to do any good to them”. The CBI’s probe into the alleged kickbacks was closed after almost 25 years of the scam-tainted gun deal with the Swedish company. However, re-investigation will happen only at the instance of the Supreme Court or the Centre.

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