In a major development in the decades-old Bofors arms scandal which brings allegations on top government officials including the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the CBI has knocked lawmakers doors seeking clearance to reopen investigation into the case. Now, the law ministry will have to clear the decision. Earlier last month, most of the members of the Member of Parliament panel on defence had stated that the CBI should move Supreme Court and challenge the High Court’s 2005 order for the cancellation of the arms case.
The members of the panel clearly stated that the age-old scam is a “clear example of systemic failure and reflection of criminality” and urged the CBI to seek government’s permission to reopen the case. While the CBI said that it can support a petition challenging the HC decision, pending in the Supreme Court, the MPs of the panel asked CBI Director Alok Verma why the investigating agency did not go to the apex court earlier. Reportedly the CBI claimed that the request for a go-ahead was denied by the Congress led UPA government.
The Bofors case was a major setback for the Rajiv Gandhi led Congress government in the 1980s which ruined the party’s chances to get back to power. The scam first came to light when a Swedish radio, on April 16, 1987 claimed that Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors had bribed top Indian politicians and defence personnel to supply 400 155mm Howiitzer guns for the Army in a Rs 1,437 crore deal.
The CBI had first registered the case against Martin Ardbo, the then President of AB Bofors and alleged middlemen Win Chadda and Hinduja brothers inn 1990. However, the case was finally closed in 2011 after the Delhi High Court ruled that the hard-earned tax-payers’ money cannot be spent on “on these type of proceedings which are not going to do any good to them”.
The case came to the limelight once again in 2016 after the CBI claimed that the then UPA government had denied permission to appeal against the court verdict.