Attorney General KK Venugopal has told the government that the CBI should not file a special leave petition (SLP) in the Bofors case against 2005 Delhi High Court judgment discharging Hinduja brothers.
In a recent letter, Venugopal suggested to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should not file SLP as it is likely to be dismissed.
“The CBI should present its stand in a similar case pending before the apex court in which the agency is also a party,” Venugopal wrote in the letter, a copy of which has been accessed by IANS.
The CBI has shared a copy of the Attorney General's opinion with the Public Accounts Committee's six-member sub-committee on defence headed by Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, which is looking into the non-compliance of certain aspects of a 1986 Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report on the Bofors Howitzer gun deal.
Informed sources told IANS that the PAC sub-committee has asked the DoPT Secretary and the CBI Director to appear before it on 30 January and explain the reasons and circumstances for not complying with certain recommendations of the 1986 CAG report.
The CBI said it wanted to file an SLP challenging the Delhi High Court order of 31 May 2005, quashing all charges against Europe-based Hinduja brothers in the Bofors case.
The CBI had on 22 January 1990, registered an FIR for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Martin Ardbo, the then President of AB Bofors, alleged middleman Win Chadha and the Europe-based industrialists the Hindujas.
The DoPT had sought legal opinion from the Attorney General on the CBI's request that it be allowed to file the SLP, the sources said.
In a letter to the DoPT Secretary, 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 said the record did not reveal any significant events or special circumstances which 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.
It is worth noting that the present government has been in position for more than three years now. In the circumstances, the long delay in approaching the court will be difficult to satisfactorily explain to the court.Venugopal
Venugopal said the CBI was a respondent in the criminal appeals pending before the Supreme Court. These were filed by private persons (Ajay Kumar Aggarwal and Raj Kumar Pandey), challenging the same high court judgement.
Thus the matter is still live, and the opportunity for the CBI to present its case before the Supreme Court is not entirely lost. It would be advisable for the CBI to canvass its stand as a respondent in the pending matters, rather than take the risk of filing its own SLP at this highly belated stage.Venugopal
The dismissal of its SLP could prejudice its stand even as a respondent in the appeals already pending in the apex court, he added.
During a meeting, the panel had asked the CBI why it had not approached the apex court after the Delhi High Court had dismissed proceedings in the case in 2005.
The high court had quashed the charges against the three Hinduja brothers under the Prevention of Corruption Act.