Bofors probe to continue, says CBI
The CBI on Thursday morning withdrew a plea it had filed before a Delhi court seeking permission to reopen the Bofors case but told reporters in the evening that it would resume probing the matter.
At the previous hearing on May 8, the chief metropolitan magistrate had rapped the agency and underlined that it didn’t need court permission to probe a case.
A dissident BJP politician suggested the government had got the agency to file the application only to create a media splash about its claims of “new evidence” against late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently called “bhrashtachari (corrupt) No. 1”.
Agency spokesperson Nitin Wakankar told reporters the CBI had obtained legal opinion after the May 8 court rap and decided to seek withdrawal of the plea. He asserted the agency would go ahead with the probe.
In February 2004, Delhi High Court had exonerated Rajiv in the payoffs case citing the agency’s failure to “unearth a scintilla of evidence” against him.
The CBI filed the latest application in February last year claiming fresh evidence.
It cited TV interviews given the previous October by a private US detective, Michael Hershman, who claimed he had evidence of Bofors paying bribes to influential politicians.
Delhi BJP politician Ajay Agarwal, who had unsuccessfully contested against Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli in 2014, had earlier moved a private application for a further probe into the Bofors case. He too withdrew his plea on Thursday following a court reprimand.
Agarwal, now a rebel after being denied a poll ticket, told The Telegraph: “The Modi government directed the CBI to petition the court to make political capital by raking up the Bofors issue.”
He cited Modi’s mid-election references to Rajiv and asked: “If the CBI had fresh evidence, why did it not record Hershman’s statement instead of filing a court plea on the basis of his TV interviews?”
Agarwal added: “The CBI knew it didn’t need court permission to reopen a case. It moved the plea at the behest of its political masters who knew it would be reported widely in the media.”
Last November, the Modi government had suffered an embarrassment when the Supreme Court cited inordinate delay to dismiss a CBI appeal against Delhi High Court’s 2005 discharge of the Hinduja brothers from the case.