NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today rejected a batch of review petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets, saying the pleas were without merit.
The rejection of review petitions is tantamount to the apex court giving the clean chit to the Narendra Modi government for the second time.
BS Dhanoa, former Air Chief to ANI: Air Force has always been defending the deal, not just because of aircraft, but also team had gone into all aspects of deal & got us the best deal. I won’t go into politics of it, those who were sceptical of deal, have been proven wrong #Rafale pic.twitter.com/YKB82dufb3
— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) November 14, 2019
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph pronounced verdicts on three review petitions filed by the trio, lawyer Vineet Dhandha and Aam Aadmi Party lawmaker Sanjay Singh.
A three-judge bench also rejected the contention that there was a need for registration of FIR in connection with the deal.
“We had concluded that other than the three aspects — Decision-Making Process, Pricing and Offsets — that too to a limited extent, this Court did not consider it appropriate to embark on a roving and fishing enquiry.
“We were, however, cautious to note that this was in the context of the writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the jurisdiction invoked,” said the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.
About the allegation of irregularities on the pricing of the jets, the top court said that it satisfied itself with the material made available and it is not the function of this court to determine the prices and act on mere “suspicion” of certain persons.
“The internal mechanism of such pricing would take care of the situation. On the perusal of documents, we had found that one cannot compare apples and oranges. Thus, the pricing of the basic aircraft had to be compared which was competitively marginally lower.
“As to what should be loaded on the aircraft or not and what further pricing should be added has to be left to the best judgment of the competent authorities,” the bench said.
The pleas had sought re-examination of Apex Court’s 14th December 2018 verdict which said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process.
The three-judge bench stated there is no merit in the review petition and no probe required in the purchase deal. The petition is dismissed on the grounds that it is not within the purview of judicial review under Article -32 of the Constitution.
A batch of petitions, including those filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and lawyer Prashant Bhushan had sought a review, alleging that material facts were suppressed and a criminal investigation should be filed in the case.
The SC termed Rahul Gandhi’s statements against Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “unfortunate” but let him off saying no further contempt proceedings needed to be pursued against the Congress leader.
Gandhi had repeatedly said “chowkidaar chor hai” (the security guard is a thief) in an apparent reference to Modi who calls himself “desh ka chowkidaar” (the nation’s security guard).
Centre has welcomed the Supreme Court decision. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh welcomed the dismissal of the review petitions in the Rafale case. Mr Singh said the NDA Government stands vindicated with this pronouncement.
The Defence Minister said the issues pertaining to defence preparedness and national security should never be politicised. He said that the allegation of corruption in Rafale deal was nothing but an attempt to malign the clean and honest image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and NDA government.
BJP said Congress and party leader Rahul Gandhi must apologise to the country after Supreme Court rejected a batch of review petitions seeking probe into Rafale deal.
Briefing media in New Delhi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, Mr Gandhi deliberately misquoted Supreme Court and attributed ‘chowkidar’ remark to the apex court.
Party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said the petitions were politically motivated and an attempt to tarnish the reputation of BJP and NDA government. He said that by dismissing the review petitions, the Supreme Court has given a clean chit to the entire Rafale deal.
On the apex court’s decision regarding Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrongly attributing the apex court his “chowkidar” remark in Rafale case, the BJP spokesperson said, Congress now stands exposed in front of the whole country. He said the Supreme Court admonished Gandhi for dragging the Court in political discourse. He said Rahul Gandhi’s credibility has gone down after this.
On the other hand, Congress said the Supreme Court has opened the way for a comprehensive criminal investigation in the Rafale case.
Briefing media in New Delhi this evening, party Spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, BJP is celebrating the case without analyzing it. He said, the Supreme Court has clearly said their hands can be tied due to the limitations and rights of the constitution, but the hands of an investigation conducted by an impartial agency are not tied and that can happen.