New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed its reservations against reopening the politically sensitive 2005 Bofors gun kickback case, which had once implicated late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and other Congress leaders.
"We will finish this case on the next date," remarked a bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, as it adjourned the matter to February 2.
The bench lamented that the courts were sought to be used for political battles and publicity and hence, it was necessary for the judges to stick to the law.
Meanwhile, the CBI kept mum on challenging the exoneration of all accused, including Europe-based Hinduja brothers, in the case by filing an appeal 12 years after the discharge order.
The Court was hearing BJP leader and lawyer Ajay Agarwal, who has sought to challenge the 2005 Delhi High Court order whereby the FIR in the matter was quashed.
It questioned the locus standi (legal standing) of a private litigant in the criminal cases, asking how a criminal can be reopened at the instance of a third party.
"How can you maintain a petition when the CBI has not filed an appeal? What can be your locus? This has become a national problem now. Even in a criminal case, a third party seeks to intervene as if it is a PIL," said the bench.
It then turned to Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who appeared for the CBI.
"You have not filed an appeal in the last 12-13 years. What do you propose to do now?" it asked Singh.
The ASG replied that it is a fact that the CBI did not file the appeal in time. "In fact, there was a special leave petition filed but withdrawn later. Thus, the appeal was not filed when it should have," maintained Singh, indicating the CBI is not inclined to file an appeal now.
But Agrawal said he as a public spirited citizen should be allowed to lead the case since no crime should go unpunished. He added that the top court had earlier allowed him to file the special leave petition, and therefore, preliminary questions of maintainability should not be raised now.
At this, the Court told Agarwal that since the CBI has not filed an appeal, he would have to first establish his locus standi in this case.
"We cannot allow anyone and everyone to start entering in criminal cases. That is not the criminal law jurisprudence. You will have to satisfy us within the parameters of the law," it told him, fixing the case for February 2.
While seeking details of the accused in the case, the court also questioned how it can admit an appeal against the accused, who have been acquitted 20 years ago.
The Rs 64-crore Bofors pay-off scandal, occurred between India and Sweden during the 1980s and 1990s, initiated allegedly by the Congress party politicians and implicating former PM Rajiv Gandhi, and several other members of the Indian and Swedish governments.
The Bofors 155 field howitzer deal was mired in controversies after members of both Indian and Swedish governments were allegedly found involved in accepting kickbacks for facilitating the deal between the two countries.