CBI Bofors

A soldier cleans the name plate of the controversial Bofors gun, which was the subject of an arms deal investigation. Citing new facts, the Central Bureau of Investigation has moved the Supreme Court against the 2005 case verdict. (Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — The Central Bureau of Investigation Feb. 2 moved the Supreme Court challenging the 2005 Delhi High Court verdict discharging the Britain-based Hinduja brothers – Srichand, Gopichand and Prakash Hinduja – in the case of alleged corruption in the purchase of Bofors 155 mm howitzers guns.

The CBI in its plea against the 2005 high court verdict cited new facts that need to be investigated as grounds for reopening the Bofors case.

Though CBI cited "new facts," it will have a difficult task persuading the top court to entertain its plea after sitting on them for 12 long years. 

Earlier, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the government that, in his opinion, it will be difficult to justify the over decade-long delay in moving the top court against the 2005 Delhi High Court order.

In a letter to the secretary, personnel, Venugopal said: "Now, more than 12 years have elapsed. Any SLP filed before the Supreme Court at this stage, in my view, is likely to be dismissed by the Court on account of the long delay itself."

He had, in his opinion, said the record did not reveal any significant events or special circumstances that could be said to constitute sufficient cause for not approaching the Supreme Court within the 90 days permitted by law or at any time thereafter in the last so many years.

However, sources later said Venugopal gave his oral consent to the probe agency's move to challenge 2005 order.

The 2005 High Court order discharging the Hinduja brothers was challenged by lawyer Ajay Agrawal, who is associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

During the hearing of Agrawal’s plea Jan. 16, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh told the court there was no CBI appeal against the 2005 order as the CBI had been advised against an appeal, though he noted the judgment ought to have been challenged.

In the same hearing, the top court also asked Agrawal to satisfy it on his locus as a third party to challenge an order in a criminal case, as it noted that the CBI, which investigated the case, did not contest the High Court order.

Agrawal's matter was listed for further hearing Feb. 2 but it did not reach, as a post-lunch session was consumed by the hearing on plea seeking a special investigation team probe the death of judge B.H. Loya.

The Rajiv Gandhi government, which ruled between 1984 and 1989, was rocked by allegations of kickbacks in the purchase of 155 mm Howitzers guns from the Swedish arms manufacturer.

On Jan. 22, 1990, the CBI had registered an First Information Report for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the provisions of Indian Penal Code and sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Martin Ardbo, then president of A.B. Bofors; alleged middleman Win Chadha; and the Hindujas.

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