NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will hear on February 26 a petition, which seeks the review of its December 14, 2018 judgement in which it had refused to order a probe into the deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter planes from France.
The Supreme Court on December 14 last year had dismissed all petitions seeking court-monitored probe into Rafale fighter jet deal with France, saying that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the deal. The top court had also said that it was not its job to go into the issue of pricing of fighter planes.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi had said that there was no need to conduct an investigation into details of Rafale pricing.
“We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process. Joint exercises have taken place and there is no element of financial benefits. Detailed scrutiny of Rafale deal is not required,” Chief Justice Gogoi had said.
On January 2, petitioners in Rafale fighter jet deal case—Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, both former Union Ministers, and Prashant Bhushan, a noted lawyer—had moved the apex court for review of its Rafale judgement of December 14.
They have asked for recalling of the judgement, and they have also asked to grant an oral hearing in the open court for their review plea.
Their petition states that the December 14 verdict contained several errors and also it relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the Government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover to the court, which is a violation of the principle of natural justice.
This petition also mentioned that several new facts have come to the light after the judgement was reserved in the matter, which needs to go to the root of the matter. Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan had expressed their disappointment over the December 14 judgement of the top court on Rafale fighter jet deal.
Reacting to the verdict by the apex court, the trio, who have sought a court-monitored CBI probe into the 36-aircraft Rafale deal, issued a press statement, stating “The judgement of the Supreme Court dismissing our petition seeking an independent court-monitored investigation into the Rafale deal is as shocking as it is disappointing. We had gone to the court after making a detailed complaint to the CBI.”
The three petitioners said: “No Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on Rafale has been submitted or examined.”
“Disappointed that the court has taken a conservative view of judicial review in cases of defence deal corruption, involving high functionaries. Shocked that the judgment is based on completely false information about the CAG report. No CAG report on Rafale has been submitted or examined. Shocked that court accepts Mukesh Ambani’s RIL as ‘parent company’ of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence. The scandal will continue to agitate the public mind. New disclosures are expected soon,” the statement said.
They also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had signed an agreement for 36 Rafale jets on April 10, 2015, without any such requirement of 36 jets being given by the Air Force Headquarters and without the approval of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which are the mandated first steps for any defence procurement.
“The Air Force had, in fact, been asking for at least 126 fighter jets which had been approved by the DAC. Tenders had been issued. Six companies had applied, and two were shortlisted and finally Dassault was selected as the lowest tender. The tender was on the basis that 126 fighters would be procured out of which only 18 would be bought in a ready to fly condition and the remaining would be manufactured in India by HAL,” said the statement.
“All facts were documented in the complaint to the CBI and we sought a court-monitored investigation (when the CBI did not register an FIR on our complaint which is mandatory as per law),” the petitioners had claimed.
Expressing further dismay over the apex court’s verdict on the defence deal, the petitioners said: “The court’s judgement today does not even address the documented facts stated in our petition or even deal with our main prayer seeking an investigation.”
“On the contrary, it proceeds on the basis that we were challenging the contract itself and uses the facts stated by the government either in the short open affidavit filed or perhaps facts claimed in the sealed cover handed only to the court which was never shared with us. In fact, some of the facts mentioned in the court judgement are not only on record but are patently incorrect,” they argued.
The Rafale jet deal controversy has been on the boil over the last a few months. The Congress and other opposition parties have been alleging irregularities in the high-profile deal. The fighter jet is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft, which security analysts believe can be a ‘game-changer’ for India’s defence system.