Supreme Court Dismisses All Review Petitions In Rafale Deal
A three-judge Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has announced its verdict in the petition seeking a review of the apex court’s December 14, 2018 judgment giving clean chit to Centre in Rafale deal.
The December judgement had backed the purchase of 36 Rafale jets by the government and given it a clean chit in the deal with French firm Dassault Aviation. It had also declined a CBI investigation into the corruption allegations in the purchase of 36 fighter jets from Dassault Aviation at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.
The two review petitions were filed for this matter -one by advocate Prashant Bhushan and former BJP ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and the other by Aam Aadmi Party Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh.
They did so after a series of documents on the deal were leaked from the defence ministry and published by The Hindu.
While disbanding the petitions last December, the Bench had said that it found “no occasion to doubt the process” of decision-making, pricing and selection of offset partners. It had said that there was no material to show that the government had favoured anyone for the defence deal.
In a series of articles published starting February, The Hindu had extensively reported the following on the Rafale deal:
1) A note of dissent written by three senior defence ministry officials who were the domain experts on the seven-member Indian negotiating team
2) The petitioners’ allegation that the court’s December ruling had “depended upon patently incorrect claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover”
The Congress had demanded an explanation from the Centre as to why the goverment-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was kept out of the deal, while Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Limited (RDL) was chosen as the offset partner.
The joint venture between Dassault Aviation and RDL also came under fire as the Congress sought a justification over the choice of a 12-day old company with no experience in manufacturing fighter jets over aerospace major HAL.
The opposition had also alleged that the fighter jets were being procured at a price three times more than its actual cost, reeking of corruption.
The Supreme Court Verdict
The verdict comes today after a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph had reserved its ruling on the review pleas, on May 10, 2019.
When it delivered its December 14 judgment on the pleas that questioned the decision-making process, pricing, and selection of RDL, the SC had declined the demand for a court-monitored investigation into the deal.
During the review, the Centre had pressed that the pricing details could not be made public due to security concerns. However, Prashant Bhushan questioned how disclosing the price of the Rafale would affect national security when the RFP (request for proposal) for the deal of 126 jets initiated and negotiated in 2007 under the then UPA government, had all the technical details of the aircraft.
Justice SK Kaul who read the judgement today said that there existed no substantial ground to order an FIR, adding that the court cannot initiate a “roving and fishing inquiry”. Hence, all review petitions in the Rafale case have been dismissed.