New Delhi: The government is learnt to have told a Parliamentary panel that the view of Attorney General KK Venugopal against filing an appeal in the Bofors case in the Supreme Court was not binding on the CBI, and the investigating agency is expected to take a call on the matter in the next few days.
The issue came up on Tuesday at a meeting of a sub-committee of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which quizzed CBI Director Alok Verma, CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana and Secretary Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) Ajay Mittal.
Sources said the CBI is likely to decide in the next three days whether it will file a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the case or it will go ahead as a respondent in an existing case.
They said Mittal is learnt to have told the panel that Attorney General Venugopal's view against filing a SLP in the case was not binding on the Central Bureau of Investigation and the agency was free to file an appeal.
Venugopal had told the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) that CBI should not file a SLP as it is likely to be dismissed. The opinion was shared by CBI with the PAC sub-committee 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".
The sources said that BJP member Nishikant Dubey submitted two "evidences" which supported CBI moving ahead in the case.
Dubey is learnt to have said that the Income Tax Tribunal had given an order in 2010 which said that kickbacks were given in the Bofors deal. He also said that in 2014, Delhi High Court rejected former External Affairs Minister Madhav Singh Solanki's plea for quashing an FIR against him as an offshoot in the Bofors scam.
The CBI 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 DoPT had sought legal opinion from the Attorney General on the CBI's intention to proceed with the SLP.
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."
Venugopal also said the CBI can proceed as a respondent in the criminal appeals pending before the Supreme Court, filed by private persons (Ajay Kumar Aggarwal and Raj Kumar Pandey), challenging the same High Court judgement.
In October last year, the CBI had sought the central government's permission to file a petition that could lead to reopening of the Bofors case.
A petitioner files an SLP to seek a special permission to be heard in the apex court in appeal against any judgment or order of any court or tribunal in the territory of India.
The alleged corruption in the Bofors guns deal had created a scandal in 1989, leading to the fall of the Rajiv Gandhi government. Kickbacks were alleged, but no evidence was found.
The Parliamentary sub-committee on defence attached to the PAC had in July last year suggested that the case of irregularities in purchase of Bofors guns should be reopened as there were many "loopholes" in the investigation in past.
The CBI officials had then told IANS that it could re-investigate the Bofors case only if a court order allowed it to.
Several MPs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also raised the issue in Parliament to re-open investigation in the case.
The CBI had also said it would look into the facts and circumstances mentioned in an interview of Michael Hershman, the first secret Bofors investigator of the Fairfax Group deployed by the Indian government.
Hershman, during an interview to a TV news channel, said he was ready to testify and assist the Indian agencies in the Bofors case.
Hershman said VP Singh, then Finance Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government, had hired him in 1986 to probe certain issues involving suspected violations of currency control laws by about a dozen wealthy Indians. At that time Hershman ran Fairfax Group, a private investigation firm.
The deal for 410 Bofors Howitzers was sealed in March 1986.
In 1986, then Finance Minister VP Singh ordered an investigation. To do so, Singh had got in touch with private investigation group Fairfax.
Updated Date: Jan 30, 2018 21:00 PM