2G Spectrum Allocation Scam that kept the nation boiled for almost a decade but ultimately proved too difficult for investigators to prove in the court is not the first case that has dragged on for too long before turning into a damp squib. There are cases that directly question the sincerity and credibility of India’s central investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the cases that have shaped the direction of Indian politics but ultimately failed to convince our judicial system, cases that tell us they were more about designs of political masters than about concerns on probity and integrity.
FODDER SCAM – OVER TWO DECADES AND STILL ONGOING
Reports of the scam appeared in January 1996. The Rs 900 crore fodder scam was about siphoning off government money in the name of companies that existed only on papers. The case was transferred to CBI in March 1996. After CBI raided then Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav’s residence in June 1996, he stepped down the next month but not before installing his wife Rabri Devi in the chief minister’s office. CBI subsequently slapped Lalu and Rabri with disproportionate assets case in August 1998.
The whole case since then since has seen Lalu being jailed, getting bail and even clean chits many times including clean chit in the DA case. Finally, Lalu was convicted in one of the fodder scam cases by a CBI court in Ranchi in September 2013 that disqualified him for six years from political office but he got bail in December 2013. In November 2014, the Jharkhand High Court ruled in his favour by removing conspiracy charges but in a jolt, the charges were reinstated by the Supreme Court in May 2017.
Since the trial is ongoing in the CBI court, Lalu and other convicted in the scam have avenues open in higher courts to challenge their conviction and it will be some time before the final conviction, or for that matter, acquittal, is upheld by the Supreme Court. Given that it is already over two decades in the case, no one can say for how long the case will drag on before any final conclusion.
BOFORS – 1986 TO 2011
The came case to public knowledge in April 1987 after the Swedish Radio claims that bribes worth Rs 64 crore were paid to Indian politicians and defence personnel in the Rs 1437 crore deal between Swedish manufacturer AB Bofors and Government of India for 400 155mm Howitzer guns signed in March 1986.
What followed was over two decades of labyrinthine probe that cost Rajiv Gandhi his government. CBI registered FIR in 1990 but it took nine years for the agency to file first chargesheet in the case when it did so against Win Chadha, an AB Bofors agent, in October 1999. Letter Rogatories were sent and Interpol Red Corner notice was issued. But nothing could help and CBI was forced to wind up its case against lone surviving accused, Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, in January 2011. Before it, CBI had tried to get Quattrocchi extradited to India for years but always failed. Quattrocchi died in 2013.
The case that dragged on for 25 years and created storm in Indian politics, saw no convictions and it fact the judge, while deliberating on CBI’s closure report, commented that the agency had already spent Rs 250 crore on investigating a kickback of Rs 64 crore and the whole exercise was a sheer wastage of public money.
DENEL ARMS DEAL SCAM – 2003 TO 2013
India signed deal with South Africa’s state owned firm Denel in 2003 to get 1,200 bunker-buster anti-material rifles through a British agent. But the deal was mired in controversy with kickback allegations of Rs 20 crore paid to gain confidential documents from the Ministry of Defence. Denel was supposed to provide 1,200 rifles but it ended up providing only 300.
CBI started its probe in July 2005 but couldn’t make much headway apart from sending routine Letter Rogatories and was forced to file closure report in September 2013 where it accepted it could not find any evidence to prove allegations of corruption in the deal.
COFFIN SCAM – 2002 TO 2015
The scam came under scanner in 2002. A CAG report found the coffins bought for the Kargil War martyrs too expensive and indeed they were, at $2500, each coffin was 15 times more than the price of $172 paid earlier.
CBI was asked to probe the scam in June 2005 but could register a case only after a year, in June 2006, against George Fernandes, the Defence Minister in during the Kargil War in 1999, three army officers and the US supplier.
The agency filed its chargesheet in 2009 where it did not name George Fernandes giving him clean chit. The three army officers were also given clean chit by a Delhi court in December 2013 citing lack of evidence and in October 2015, the Supreme Court, too, gave the NDA government clean chit in the case under which the alleged scam had taken place.
BARAK MISSILE SCAM – 2001 TO 2013
The scam came to light in 2001 through Tehelka sting operation that alleged kickbacks in many defence deals signed by the government of India. The government had signed a deal worth Rs 1150 crore with Israel in 2000 for Barak missiles.
CBI took over the case and registered FIR in October 2006 accusing George Fernandes, former naval chief Sushil Kumar, Jaya Jaitley, Samata Party leader, RK Jain, Samata Party treasurer and businessman Suresh Nanda.
But while the case created political storm, CBI could not do much beyond sending letters of request to concerned countries from where it could not any worthy information. So the agency that had claimed huge bribes were paid and a conspiracy was hatched for the deal while registering the case, was forced to file closure report in December 2013.