A Delhi court on Monday ordered the criminal prosecution of former External Affairs Minister Madhav Singh Solanki for his alleged attempt to scuttle the probe in the Bofors pay off case in Switzerland by handing cover a fabricated document to his Swiss counterpart in 1992.
"Solanki was a Union Minister for External Affairs. In his capacity as minister, he was clothed with a duty to maintain and support judicial system of the country. Instead of extending support to judicial system, he tried to scuttle the judicial proceedings going on at the behest of this court," Special Central Bureau of Investigation Judge R K Yadav said.
The court's direction comes on an application filed by the CBI in 2003 seeking permission to prosecute the former minister for handing over a misguiding request to the Swiss authorities.
Solanki, in his official visit to Davos in February 1992, had allegedly given an "unsigned" and "fabricated" memorandum to Swiss Foreign Minister Rene Felber to cause them to form an "erroneous opinion" on a Letters Rogatory then issued by the Delhi court for collection of evidence in the case.
"This court will not allow anyone to interfere with judicial proceedings, whosoever he or she may be... Even otherwise, courts are jealous of protecting the legal process. Therefore, I find it expedient to record a finding against Solanki for filing a case under Section 193 (punishment for hampering judicial probe) of the Indian Penal Code," the court said.
The CBI had in 2003 filed an application under Section 340 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the court alleging that the then minister had misused his official position and made an attempt to nullify a judicial order, seeking assistance from foreign authorities in collecting evidence in the infamous case.
Earlier CBI counsel U S Prasad and Naveen K Matta had submitted that a Letter Rogatory was sent by the court to "competent judicial authorities" in Switzerland in 1990, requesting collection of banking documents of alleged beneficiaries in the Bofors gun deal.
"Solanki, in his one-to-one meeting with the Swiss minister gave a "misleading" memorandum stating that the Letter Rogatory had been challenged before the Indian courts and requested them to go slow in their probe," the counsel alleged.
Allowing their plea, the court said, "It is desirable to file a complaint against respondent (Solanki) before the court of competent jurisdiction."
"The memorandum was given with an intention that Swiss authorities may form an erroneous impression and direct closure of further probe in the case," the court said.
Solanki had to resign from the Narasimha Rao cabinet in April 1992 after he reportedly admitted in the Parliament that he had delivered a memorandum to the Swiss Minister.
Following the Letter Rogatory, the Swiss authorities had undertaken an extensive probe into the matter, the CBI alleged.
The issue had snowballed into a major political controversy forcing Solanki to resign from the Cabinet following his admission in the Parliament.
The matter against Solanki is an offshoot of the Bofors pay off case.