Date: 1/19/2006


EDITORIAL: Bofors Redux (TIMES NEWS NETWORK)//// [ Thursday, January 19, 2006 12:00:00 am TIMES NEWS NETWORK ] //// The most disturbing element of recent developments in the Bofors case is the lack of accountability in India's judicial machinery and political system that they reveal. //// The CBI, which had hitherto opposed the de-freezing of two UK accounts belonging to Ottavio Quattrocchi, on the ground that they may be linked to sleaze money related to the scandal, turns cartwheels and declares the funds are kosher, and Additional Solicitor-General B Dutta's journey to London to de-freeze the accounts occurred, in fact, at its behest. ///// The prime minister and Congress party distance themselves from the matter, saying they have nothing whatsoever to do with Dutta's mission. //// Did it emanate then from H R Bharadwaj, law minister, who is up for a Rajya Sabha renomination and may need to ingratiate himself with the Congress leadership? ///// But the buck doesn't stop here either, as the CBI's somersault appears designed to shield him. The Supreme Court passes an order asking the government and CBI to maintain the status quo on Quattrocchi's accounts, but the ensuing flap gives the man enough time to withdraw his money. ///// There are insinuations that the UK's Crown Prosecution Service de-froze the accounts on its own, but the CPS makes it very clear that it responded to a request coming from the Indian authorities. ///// By refusing to take responsibility for its actions and transparently manipulating India's premier investigative agency for political purposes, the UPA government has managed to revive a controversy that was, if not dead, at least dormant and sleeping. ////// Not being able to bring Bofors to closure after almost two decades of investigative work reveals, on the most charitable interpretation, grave incompetence on the CBI's part. //// Opposition politicians would be inclined to say this incompetence is by design, not accident. But they would have to explain why it made little headway even under non-Congress regimes, whether they be the NDA or V P Singh's National Front government. ///// That brings us back to lack of accountability in the system, despite charges of corruption flowing back and forth profusely. The UPA government was coasting along comfortably before the controversy broke. //// But Sonia Gandhi's halo, gathered after she declined the prime ministership, is bound to slip a bit as Quattrocchi was known to be close to the Gandhis. ///// If the UPA is not to seem like a rudderless ship, someone needs to be held accountable for this mess. If it was Bharadwaj who triggered it, he must be called upon to resign.//// 000000000