Bofors: Judge recuses, SC to set up new bench

A new Supreme Court bench will be constituted to hear the Rs 64 crore Bofors payoffs case after the recusal of Justice AM Khanwilkar on Tuesday.

A new bench would be constituted on March 28 to hear the matter. The petition before the apex court was filed by lawyer-cum-Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ajay Agrawal, challenging the May 31, 2005, verdict of the Delhi High Court quashing all charges in the case against the accused, who included the late former premier Rajiv Gandhi.

Under consideration of the apex court was the locus of Mr Agrawal on filing the appeal as a third party in the matter.

Justice Khanwilkar, who was the part of the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, did not assign any reason for opting out of the hearing.  Mr Agrawal, who had contested the Lok Sabha Election of 2014 from Rae Bareli against the then Congress President Sonia Gandhi, has been pursuing the case for over a decade in the apex court.

He had filed the appeal when the Central Bureau of Investigation had failed to challenge the High Court verdict within the mandatory 90-day period.  Justice R S Sodhi, now retired, had delivered the May 31, 2005 Judgment in which charges were quashed against Europe based industrialists Hinduja brothers.

Another Delhi High Court Justice, now retired, J D Kapoor had exonerated the late Prime Minister in the case on February 4, 2004 and directed the framing of charge of forgery under section 465 of the Indian Penal Code against the Bofors company.

On March 24, 1986, the Rs 1,437 crore deal was entered into between India and Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 155mm Howitzer guns for the Army.
Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, had reported that the company had paid bribes to top Indian politicians and defence personnel.

CBI had registered an FIR on January 22, 1990 for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery defined under the Indian Penal Code and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Martin Ardbo, the then president of AB Bofors, alleged middleman Win Chadda and the Hinduja brothers.

It was alleged that certain public servants and private persons in India and abroad had entered into a criminal conspiracy between 1982 and 1987 in pursuance of which the offences of bribery, corruption, cheating and forgery defined under Indian Penal Code were committed.

CBI filed the first charge sheet in the case on October 22, 1999, against Chadda, Ottavio Quattrocchi the then Defence Secretary S K Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors Company.
On October 9, 2000, the CBI filed a supplementary charge sheet against the S P Hinduja, G P Hinduja and P P Hinduja .

A trial court in Delhi on March 4, 2011, had discharged Quattrocchi from the case, saying the nation could not afford to spend hard earned money on his extradition as the probe had already cost Rs 250 crore


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