Friday, March 02, 2007

The Bofors case make a public presence again

This week Bofors raised its profile in the Indian media again. This is a case that keeps on
coming back again and again in the public profile, akin to the phoenix rising from the
ashes on a regular basis. The Bofors case has now been in the public arena for over 2 decades, but with every action, there seems like somebody (the Congress and its leader) has something to hide.

If you take the case of Mr. Q, he seems to lead a life blessed by the Government of India. He was allowed to escape from the country without being prosecuted against, then the BJP government let him escape from Malaysia by not contesting the court decision that went in his favour. And in the most disgraceful incident, the Additional Solicitor General in January of last year had told the UK High Court that money frozen in his accounts could be released, which promptly happened. There was an incredible furore when that happened, but as with all politics, when the issue ceased to be a hot issue, it was dropped from discussion.

The whole Bofors case has always stunk. Initial investigation by Swedish Radio and by The Hindu had revealed that comissions were paid, and the investigations and horror over the scale of this corruption contributed in no small matter to Rajiv Gandhi's defeat at the hands of VP Singh in 1989. It is another matter that VP Singh turned out to be an extremely divisive Prime Minister, and was not able to take any step forward in the Bofors investigation.

The Bofors investigation has gone through several ups and downs, but it can now be considered to be conclusively down. There have been numerous court judgements that have exonerated every body who was suspected to have been involved, and the major conclusion has been that investigating agencies have never followed up this case with due diligence, instead submitting to the whims and fancies of the political masters on this issue. Mr. Quattrocchi is the last person involved with the case who still has some manner of a case against him, but given that the CBI did not want to reveal that he had been arrested in Argentina for a number of days after his arrest, I am not too hopeful of anything really happening to move the case forward.

Another angle from this is that the CBI, being the premier civilian investigating agency of the Government, really needs to be independent in operation, and not influenced in thought and action by what a minister desires. I am sure that in some case or the other, the Supreme Court will eventually get the CBI to be independent, but till that time happens, the CBI will be hampered by political influence.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:28 AM