Prosecuting Q unjustified: CBI to court

The CBI has cited five reasons to justify its decision to close the case against Ottavio Quattrocchi.

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Saturday moved an application before a court here to quash all charges against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the two-decade-old Bofors pay off case saying the case cannot be kept pending forever as attempts to extradite him have failed in the past.

"The continued prosecution of Quattrocchi is unjustified in the light of various factors, including the failed attempts to extradite him," Additional Solicitor General P.P. Malhotra -- appearing for the CBI -- said before the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kaveri Baweja.
In a 1987 broadcast, a Swedish radio station alleged that nearly Rs.64 crore ($13 million) were paid in kickbacks to the Congress party and the Rajiv Gandhi government for the multi-billion dollar Bofors howitzer deal. The scandal shook the nation and Rajiv Gandhi lost his two-thirds majority in parliament in the post-Bofors election two years later.

Citing section 321 of the CrPc (code of criminal procedure), Malhotra said the investigating agency`s application can only be dismissed if the court is convinced that the case has been filed by the CBI under extraneous considerations or the agency had not applied its mind.

Malhotra, in his nine-page application, also said that all the other accused in the case are either dead or have been discharged by the Delhi High Court.

"It is considered expedient in the interest of justice that the proceedings against him should not be continued and be withdrawn," Malhotra said.

The court will decide on Oct 9 to whether drop to Quattrocchi`s name from the case or not.

The CBI also opposed a plea by advocate Ajay Agrawal -- who filed an application saying that the government has sufficient evidence in hand to nail Quattrocchi -- saying that the petitioner has no stand to object the investigating agency`s legal opinion.

Another lawyer, Siddharth Gupta, representing Nishulk Kanooni Sahyata Samiti, objected to the CBI`s move of submitting an application under section 321 of CrPC.

The court asked the CBI to reply to Gupta`s application on the next date of hearing.

Quattrocchi was known to be close to the family of Rajiv Gandhi and the CBI had last year removed his name from the list of persons wanted in the Bofors probe.

The central government last week informed the Supreme Court about its decision to drop the case against Quattrocchi, saying the charges cannot be kept pending forever as two attempts to extradite him -- from Malaysia in 2003 and Argentina in 2007 -- have failed despite an Interpol red corner notice.

Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium told the apex court that the decision to close the case came after considering a Feb 4, 2004 judgement of the Delhi High Court, which held that no case of corruption was made out in the Bofors deal.

The high court had said that there was no evidence under the Prevention of Corruption Act against the accused.