|The buck stops with the PM.
The luck stops with Quattrocchi.
Ottavio Quattrocchi reportedly thanked God and sighed happily after hearing the court verdict accepting the closure of the case against him. His relief may be premature. The petitioner, Mr Ajay Aggarwal, has already indicated that he will appeal to the High Court. How will the High Court respond?
The judge of the Tis Hazari Court who delivered the verdict exonerating Mr Quattrocchi had his head immersed in clouds of poetry. Was he influenced by poetic license in delivering his judgment?
The defence case had a glaring contradiction. The Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) passed an order indicating that kickbacks of Rs 61 crore were paid to late Win Chaddha and Mr Quattrocchi in the Howitzer gun deal. Therefore tax was due from Mr Quattrocchi.
The ITAT is a government department which asserted that Mr Quattrocchi received a Bofors payment attracting tax. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is also a government department which asserted that the Bofors case should be closed because there was no evidence against Mr Quattrocchi. So is it the right arm or the left arm of the government that is correct? Clearly each does not know how the other moves. It is in deciding this question that the petitioner’s case gathers strength.
The CBI Director, Mr Amar Pratap Singh, who sought closure of the Bofors case, is doubtless endowed with sterling qualities that helped him reach his high position. Unfortunately his appointment made by the Personnel department under Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was cleared by a Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) who was himself under a cloud. The Supreme Court dismissed the CVC because he was accused for offences under Section 13(2) read with 13(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act under Section 120B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
If the PM, whose party’s fortunes were directly affected by the Bofors Case, was responsible for the appointment of the CBI Director, it was approved by a CVC himself charged with corruption. Is there any guarantee therefore that the new incumbent in the CBI is an appropriate choice? The CBI director sought closure of the case against Mr Quattrocchi despite the ITAT charging him with receiving bribes in the Bofors case.
The PM has accepted responsibility for the flawed appointment of the CVC. Opposition leader Arun Jaitley said that was not enough. The PM must tell the public “whether he was misled or allowed himself to be deliberately misled”. The PM as promised has made a statement on the subject in parliament. As was expected his statement in no way provided answer to the question raised by Mr Jaitley. What we do know is that in flagrant violation of the objection raised by Mrs Sushma Swaraj the PM and Mr Chidambaram overruled her in the three member panel to appoint a tainted CVC, that the CVC cleared the appointment of the CBI director, who in flagrant violation of the available evidence closed the case against Ottavio Quattrocchi. The buck stops with the PM. The luck stops with Quattrocchi.
Weighing the ITAT against the CBI, which arm of the government will the High Court uphold? The public will watch with incredible excitement how incredible justice incredibly unfolds in Incredible India.