New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India on Friday dismissed a CBI petition challenging a high court verdict of 2005 discharging Hinduja brothers - Srichand, Prakashchand and another - in Bofors case, saying that the appeal is time-barred and hence closing the politically sensitive Rs 64 crore Bofors pay-off case. 

In February, CBI had filed an appeal against the Delhi High Court decision repressing charges against all the accused. A bench consisting of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice K M Joseph were dealing with the 13-year delayed appeal.

The CBI filed an appeal on February 2, 2018, against the May 31, 2005, Delhi High Court verdict.

On Friday, the apex court said that it is not convinced with CBI's grounds on delay in filing the appeal against HC verdict discharging Hinduja brothers in Bofors case

BJP leader and advocate Ajay Agrawal,  who contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Rae Bareli against the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has been pursuing this case for over a decade since he filed an appeal in the Supreme Court in 2005 after the CBI failed to challenge the high court’s order within a mandatory period of 90 days.

After the NDA government came to power, there were speculations that CBI would take a call to either respond as a respondent in Agrawal's petition or prefer a separate appeal. After a lot of deliberation, the CBI this year got the nod from the NDA government to file an appeal in the apex court.

The filing of the appeal assumes significance as Attorney General Venugopal in January had advised the agency against moving a petition against the high court verdict after a delay of more than a decade.

Later, after consultations, law officers were in favour of the appeal as the CBI came out with "some important documents and evidence" to challenge the high court order.

Sources in February had said the agency swung into action after the Attorney General orally gave it the go-ahead to file the appeal in the case in which it cited the October 2017 interview of private detective Michael Hershman, who alleged that the then Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government had sabotaged his investigation.

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

The CBI on January 22, 1990, had registered the FIR for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery 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 had 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 were committed.

The first charge sheet in the case was filed on October 22, 1999, against Chadda, Ottavio Quattrocchi, the then defence secretary SK Bhatnagar, Ardbo and the Bofors company. A supplementary charge sheet was filed against the Hinduja brothers on October 9, 2000.

A special CBI court in Delhi on March 4, 2011, had discharged Quattrocchi from the case saying the country could not afford to spend hard-earned money on his extradition which had already cost Rs 250 crore.

Quattrocchi, who had fled from here on July 29-30, 1993, never appeared before any court in India to face prosecution. He died on July 13, 2013. The other accused persons who died are Bhatnagar, Chadda.

(With agency inputs)