The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the Central Bureau of Investigation’s appeal challenging a Delhi High Court order quashing charges against the accused in the Bofors case, reported The Times of India. The top court dismissed the petition citing inordinate delay, according to Bar and Bench.

In May 2005, the Delhi High Court had quashed all charges against the three Hinduja brothers – SP Hinduja, GP Hinduja and PP Hinduja – and others in the case. The investigation agency filed the appeal against the verdict on February 2 this year.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it was not convinced with the grounds for delay cited by the agency, reported Live Law. The court, however, said the CBI can raise all the grounds in a pending appeal filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and advocate Ajay Aggarwal challenging the Delhi High Court judgement, PTI reported.

Attorney General KK Venugopal asked the Supreme Court to make it clear in its order that dismissal of the agency’s appeal would not prevent the agency from carrying out an investigation in the case. The court, however, did not say anything on this matter.

Earlier this year, the CBI was reportedly keen to file an appeal, and officers had told a parliamentary panel that the agency had important documents and evidence to challenge the High Court order. Venugopal had then advised the government that the CBI should not file a special leave petition against the High Court order as the court was likely to dismiss the petition on grounds of delay.

Venugopal also suggested that the CBI remain a respondent in Aggarwal’s appeal. Aggarwal had filed an appeal in the top court in 2005 itself after the CBI failed to challenge the High Court’s order within the mandatory 90-day period. In September 2017, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Aggarwal’s appeal in which he had made the CBI one of the respondents.

Bofors scandal

The scam dates back to the 1980s when the Congress was in power with Rajiv Gandhi as the prime minister. The Indian government had signed a $1.4-billion (Rs 10,164 crore at current exchange rate) defence deal with Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors for 410 field howitzer guns and a supply contract in March 1986.

In April 1987, the Swedish Radio claimed that the company had paid bribes to senior Indian politicians and Army personnel to secure the deal. Gandhi was also implicated in the case.

In 1990, the CBI registered a First Information Report for criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under the Indian Penal Code, as well as for corruption, against Martin Ardbo, who was then the president of Bofors, alleged middleman Win Chadda and the Hinduja brothers. The first chargesheet was filed in the case in 1999. A special CBI court in Delhi had in 2011 discharged Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the case.