Court questions contempt demand against former CBI director

November 3rd, 2008 - 10:27 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 3 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday asked an advocate who filed a petition accusing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of helping Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi on what basis he wanted to initiate contempt proceedings against the former head of the probe agency.The court was hearing petitions relating to Quattrocchi, who has not yet appeared in any Indian court, and contempt petition against former CBI Director Vijay Shanker for allegedly misleading the court over the extradition proceedings initiated against the Italian businessman.

The court wanted to know if the decisions of the Delhi High Court, which had quashed all charges against Quattrocchi, were challenged or not. Quattrocchi is accused in the Rs.640 million Bofors kickback scam.

“Had anybody challenged the discharge of the accused by the high court,” a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan asked.

Advocate Ajay Agrawal, who has filed the petition, said after the investigating agency failed to challenge the May 31, 2005, judgement of the high court he had filed an appeal which was admitted by the apex court and is pending for three years.

However, the advocate, who had moved the apex court in January 2006 against the de-freezing of Quattrocchi’s bank account in London, had a tough time convincing the bench that a case of contempt was made out against Shanker.

He had filed the petition in March 2007 accusing CBI and its director of consistently misleading the court over the extradition proceedings initiated against Quattrocchi.

The bench, also comprising Justice Aftab Alam, wanted to know from the advocate what was his basis of alleging that contempt had been committed by the former CBI director.

“What is the nature of the contempt,” the bench wanted to know, expressing its disapproval over the response of the advocate that “there was interference by the CBI and its then director in the administration of justice by concealing the material fact”.

The bench deferred the hearing saying that he has to prima facie convince the court that there is evidence to press for contempt as he has been unable to explain what is the contempt committed by Shanker.

During a hearing on Sep 5, the advocate alleged “It is ex-facie clear that the CBI is helping Quattrocchi ever since the change of guard at the Centre after the General Elections in 2004 in the country and at every step CBI is facilitating Quattrocchi so that he may go free from the Bofors investigation.”

Quattrocchi, 69, walked to freedom after the El Dorado court rejected India’s plea for his extradition on June 8, 2007.

The advocate sought disclosure of confidential material, including opinions of CBI and law officers of the government, which allegedly facilitated the rejection of India’s request for Quattrocchi’s extradition.

The Bofors scandal came to light in 1980. Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and others were accused of receiving kickbacks in the purchase of Bofors guns from Sweden.

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