A special court has passed severe strictures against the Central Bureau of Investigation for having delayed the registration of the First Information Report in the politically sensitive Bofors payoff case, saying there was a massive cover-up operation at the government level to bury the 'truth'.
Special Judge Prem Kumar slammed the agency for sitting over the matter for about three years saying the CBI 'seems to have been used [in the cover-up operation of the government]'.
"That is why one does not find any response from the CBI in fulfilling its statutory obligations [of registering an FIR] on coming to know of the allegations of bribery to Indian politicians and defence personnel by A B Bofors," he said.
The observations of the court came in an order rejecting Hinduja brothers' application seeking quashing of the CBI charge sheet against them in the case on the ground that there was an inordinate delay in the probe and the trial.
The court dismissed their plea on the ground that 'the purpose of the delay in registering the FIR was obviously to help the accused persons and not otherwise', and observed that the CBI did not act independently in this matter.
The government of the day was being run by the very person who the CBI ultimately named in the charge sheet, the court said and asked, "How could then it be expected that so long the regime of Rajiv Gandhi lasted that the CBI would be bold and independent enough to lodge the FIR and conduct the investigation?"
"The safe way was to sit over the matter in the name of preliminary inquiry," it said.
"It seems that in this case, the CBI was under the influence of the top political executive of the day and that is why so long as the said regime lasted the case was not registered," the court observed.
The CBI had named former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi as an accused in the first charge sheet filed in October 1999, but kept him in column-2 as he was not alive to face the trial.
The court said, "The purpose of the massive cover-up operation by tinkering with the institutions and agencies like the CBI was to see that the matter does not see the light of the day and the truth remains buried in deep Swiss vaults."
"But the truth has a bad habit and it surfaces and emerges and re-emerges like that bird phoenix, which rises from its own ashes," it observed.
The Bofors FIR was registered on January 22, 1990, nearly three years after the story on the allegations of corruption broke out in April 1987.
It was done two and half years after the receipt of the Swedish National Audit Bureau report, two years after the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and presentation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee report on the matter.
The CBI failed to explain to the court as to why it delayed the registration of the case despite having knowledge by April 1988 itself about the materials and press reports referred to in the FIR.
The probe agency had registered a preliminary inquiry in November 1988, which continued till registration of the FIR.
Complete Coverage: The Bofors Case
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