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Delhi HC had, on May 31, 2005, quashed proceedings against Srichand, Gopichand and Prakash Hinduja in the Rs 64-crore Bofors kickbacks case

The Supreme Court, on Friday (November 2), dismissed a special leave petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against a 2005 Delhi High Court verdict which had discharged the controversial Hinduja brothers in the Rs 64 crore Bofors kickbacks case.

A top court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the SLP by the CBI had been “filed after an inordinate delay” – 13 years – and that it was not convinced with the grounds given by the CBI filing the appeal against the Delhi High Court verdict after so many years.

The bench, however, granted the CBI liberty to raise an appeal against the discharge of the billionaire Hinduja brothers – Srichand, Gopichand and Prakash – during proceedings in the petition filed by advocate and BJP worker Ajay Agarwal, which is currently pending before the court.

The Bofors arms deal, worth Rs 1,437-crore, was made between India and Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 units of 155-mm Howitzer guns for the Indian Army on March 24, 1986, when the late Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister of India.

Revelations by the Swedish Radio, on April 16, 1987, that AB Bofors had allegedly paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel to secure the deal, had kicked up a political storm against the Rajiv Gandhi government in India and the ensuing tirade by Opposition leaders of the time, and Rajiv’s estranged ministerial colleague, VP Singh, is still believed to be the biggest trigger for the Congress’ defeat in the 1989 Lok Sabha polls.

The CBI had registered an FIR in 1990 against Martin Ardbo, the then chief of AB Bofors for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indian Penal Code and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. FIR was registered against alleged middleman Win Chadda and the Hinduja brothers also. The first charge sheet in the matter was filed on October 22, 1999 against Chadda, Ottavio Quattrocchi, the then defence secretary SK Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors company. A supplementary charge sheet in the case was filed against the Hinduja brothers on October 9, 2000.

A special CBI court, on March 4, 2011, discharged Quattrocchi from the case, saying the country could not afford to spend hard-earned money on his extradition which had already cost Rs 250 crore. Later, on May 31, 2005, the Delhi High Court had also discharged the Hinduja brothers from the case.

— India Legal Bureau

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