In a major development, the CBI in its appeal in the Bofors case before the Supreme Court, blamed the UPA government for delay in filing the appeal. CBI accused the UPA government for the delay in filing this appeal against a scam, which “jeopardized national and public interest”. The investigative agency argued before the Supreme Court that that it could do nothing but watch helplessly as the accused persons went scot-free in 2005 without trial or punishment.
The CBI, in its appeal, blamed the previous United Progressive Alliance government for its ‘silence’ all these years. It said “crime never dies and lapse of time is bar to proceed against offenders however powerful they may be”.
The CBI filed an application for condonation of delay, as it wanted to challenge the “legally unsustainable” order of the High Court. It was contended that the government of the time had denied it permission to approach the apex court. It was also argued that the situation was out of control for the agency and that the “perpetrators are yet to be brought to book”. The application stated, “While the petitioner-CBI was of the view that the impugned order is legally unsustainable and should be challenged before this Honorable Court, ultimately a decision was taken not to challenge the impugned order, on the basis of the views expressed by the Government of India and the law officers who dealt with the matter at that stage, as the Government denied permission to the CBI to approach this Honorable Court.”
The top investigative agency also argued that a development in 2017 fundamentally altered the landscape in the Bofors scam case. The CBI referred to interview given by Michael Hershman to an Indian TV channel. The CBI told the Supreme Court, “in the said interview, Mr. Hershman has stated that he is in possession of material which would show the payment of bribes in the Bofors deal and that the involvement of powerful people may be the reason for the checkered history of this case. The statements made by Mr. Hershman go to the very root of the matter,”
The Bofors scam case had surfaced in 1986 and had rocked the Rajiv Gandhi government over allegations of corruption and kickbacks. India had signed a Rs 1,437-crore deal with the Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors, for supply of 400 155 mm Howitzer guns for the Army. A year later, a Swedish radio channel alleged that the company had bribed top Indian politicians and defense personnel to secure the contract. Later on, the CBI lodged an FIR against the then president of Bofors Martin Ardbo, the alleged middleman Win Chadda and the Hinduja brothers for criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery.
As stated by the CBI before the Supreme Court, till date no one has been punished in this case. What is shocking is the revelation that the UPA government of the day had denied permission to the CBI, to file an appeal before the Supreme Court against the High Court order. It goes on to show that the UPA government had unnecessarily curbed the investigative agency. The independence and freedom of the investigative agency had been taken away, only in order to safeguard certain interests. It is therefore appalling that even after impeding the CBI’s functions consistently, it has the guts of alleging that it is the incumbent government which has interfered with the CBI.
It is unfortunate that the appeal got dismissed and it seems that the UPA government interfered with the functioning of the CBI , denied it the permission to approach the apex court and is to be blamed for this. However, one cannot help but express disappointment at how the Bofors’ scam accused have gone scot free, after the Supreme Court dismissed the application for condonation of delay made by the CBI.
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