The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two decades on, Bofors scam gets final burial
- Deadline for appeal in Supreme Court against dismissal of corruption charges lapses

New Delhi, July 24: The deadline to move the Supreme Court for revival of corruption charges in the Bofors gun deal — struck down by Delhi High Court this February — expired early this month.

The law ministry decided not to clear the CBI’s draft special leave petition challenging the court order that held there was no evidence to make out a corruption case against the Hindujas and gave a clean chit to Rajiv Gandhi and former defence secretary S.K. Bhatnagar.

“Till date there is no evidence to show that public servants had taken bribe in awarding the contract of guns to M/s AB Bofors & Co. either themselves or through Bofors’ agents though it has succeeded in tracing the Swiss accounts of ‘Commission Agents’ employed by M/s AB Bofors wherein illegal payments received by them from Bofors as commission were deposited,” the court had observed.

As the Congress celebrated the judgment that “vindicated” Rajiv Gandhi’s innocence, the BJP issued a veiled warning that the CBI could approach the Supreme Court. The CBI did that in early May, sending a request to the law ministry to move the Supreme Court. But the NDA was ousted from power before it could approve the request. The CBI had wanted the court to restore charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

If the Supreme Court had accepted the CBI plea, there was no way the names of Rajiv Gandhi and S.K. Bhatnagar could have been kept out of the chargesheet as they were alleged to have been beneficiaries.

But in the absence of the SLP, the case that cast its shadow on Indian politics for over a decade has lost relevance, irrespective of the final verdict against the other accused.

The 1989 election took place under the shadow of the Bofors gun with the Opposition campaigning against the Congress on “corruption in high places”. Since then, Bofors has been figuring in Indian politics, especially during elections.

“After the high court judgment, it is a simple case of cheating against the Hinduja brothers and forgery against M/s AB Bofors,” an official said, hoping the CBI would be allowed to work unhindered.

Next week, a Delhi court will begin fresh arguments on framing of charges against the Hinduja brothers — S.P. Hinduja, G.P. Hinduja and P.P. Hinduja — for milder violations of criminal conspiracy and cheating.

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