Wring a letter to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) today, Venugopal said that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should not file a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court in a case related to the Bofors scandal as it could be dismissed on grounds of delay and "could well prejudice its stand even as a respondent in the appeals already pending".
"More than 12 years have elapsed since the May 31, 2005 order of the Delhi High Court, quashing corruption charges against the three Hinduja brothers in the scandal related to the purchase of 155 mm howitzers from Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors. Any SLP filed before the Supreme Court is likely to be dismissed by the court on account of the long delay itself. Record does not reveal special circumstances for not approaching the Supreme Court within 90 days, or at anytime thereafter within (the) last years. The present government has been in position for over three years. The long delay in approaching the court will be difficult to satisfactorily explain," Venugopal said in his letter.
"The CBI is a party respondent in the criminal appeals pending before the SC challenging the high court's judgment. Thus, the matter is still alive and opportunity for the CBI to present its case before the SC is not entirely lost," he said.
The letter from his office further advised the CBI to make its stand as respondent in the pending matters clear rather than taking the risk of filing its own SLP at this highly belated stage.
"It would be advisable for the CBI to canvass its stand as respondent in the pending matters rather than take risk of filing its own SLP at this highly belated stage. Dismissal of SLP could well prejudice its stand even as a respondent in appeals," Venugopal said.
The Supreme Court will next hear an appeal by Aggarwal, also a BJP leader, in the case on February 2.
The Bofors scandal, relating to alleged payment of kickbacks in procurement of howitzer artillery guns, rocked the then government under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the late 1980s. Gandhi, one of the accused in the case, was exonerated of any wrong doing by the Delhi High Court in February 2004, thirteen years after his assassination.
The scandal relates to illegal kickbacks paid in a USD 1.4 billion deal between the Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors with the Government of India for the sale of 410 field howitzer guns, and a supply contract almost twice that amount.
It was the biggest arms deal ever in Sweden, and money marked for development projects was diverted to secure this contract at any cost.
Investigations revealed flouting of rules and bypassing of institutions. The scale of the corruption was far worse than any that Sweden and India had seen before and directly led to the defeat of the Congress party in the November 1989 general elections.
The Swedish company reportedly paid Rs.64 crores (USD 10 million) in kickbacks to top Indian politicians and key defence officials. (ANI)