The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court fires Bofors cover-up cannon

New Delhi, Sept. 1 (PTI): A special court has issued severe strictures against the CBI for delaying the registration of FIR in the Bofors case, saying there was a “massive cover-up” at the government level to bury the “truth”.

Criticising the CBI for sitting over the matter for about three years before the FIR was lodged in January 1990, special judge Prem Kumar said: “There was a massive cover-up operation at the government level so that truth about the pay-offs/bribes is not revealed. The CBI also seems to have been used for the purpose.

“That is why one does not find any response from the CBI in fulfilling its statutory obligations (of registering the FRI) on coming to know of the allegations of bribery to Indian politicians and defence personnel by AB Bofors,” the judge said.

The observations of the court came in an order rejecting the Hinduja brothers’ application seeking quashing of the CBI chargesheet against them in the case on the ground that there was inordinate delay in the probe and the trial.

The court dismissed their plea on the ground that “the purpose of the delay in registering the FIR was obviously to help the accused persons and not otherwise”. The court observed that the CBI did not act independently in this matter. The government of the day was being “run by the very person whom the CBI ultimately named in the chargesheet”, it said.

“How could then it be expected that so long the regime of Rajiv Gandhi lasted that the CBI would be bold and independent enough to lodge the FIR and conduct the investigation' The safe way was to sit over the matter in the name of preliminary enquiry. The CBI had not acted independently,” it said.

“It seems that in this case, the CBI was under the influence of the top political executive of the day and that is why so long as the said regime lasted, the case was not registered,” the court said.

The CBI had named former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi an accused in the first chargesheet filed in October 1999 but kept him in Column II as he was not alive to face the trial.

The court said: “The purpose of the massive cover operation by tinkering with the institutions and agencies like the CBI was to see that the matter does not see the light of the day and the truth remains buried in deep Swiss vaults. “But the truth has a bad habit and it surfaces and emerges and re-emerges like that Siberian bird Phoenix who rises from its own ashes.”

The court noted that “those were unusual and exceptional times when the very person against whom serious allegations emerged was top political executive of the day.

“The probity in public life, the rule of law and the preservation of democracy required that agencies like the CBI perform their legal obligations and proceed in accordance with the law against every person involved, irrespective of where he was placed in the political hierarchy.”

The Bofors FIR was registered on January 22, 1990, nearly three years after the story on the allegations of corruption broke in April 1987. It was done two-and-a-half years after the receipt of the Swedish National Audit Bureau report, two years after the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and presentation of the joint parliamentary committee’s report on the matter.

The CBI failed to explain to the court why it delayed the registration of the case despite having knowledge by April 1988 itself of the material and press reports referred to in the FIR. The CBI had registered a preliminary inquiry in November 1988 that continued till registration of the FIR.

What was done in the inquiry was not disclosed to the court and it was not made clear as to what additional information had been received by the CBI to commence it, the court said.

The FIR, too, did not mention that any additional material had been received by the CBI before the commencement of the inquiry, the court noted.

Having observed all these, the special judge dismissed Hinduja brothers’ plea for quashing the CBI chargesheet, saying the period of delay can not be counted in their favour “as the delay was entirely due to those or some of those or one of those who were involved in this sordid affair”.

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