SC rejects review petition seeking a court-monitored criminal probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal

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The Supreme Court on November 15 dismissed a review petition seeking a court-monitored criminal probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal between the Indian government and France’s Dassault Aviation.

The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph dismissed the review pleas in a unanimous judgment.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with a contract for aircrafts, which was pending before different governments for quite some time and the necessity for those aircrafts has never been in dispute” held the bench reiterating what it had held in its original judgment that it “did not consider it appropriate to conduct a roving enquiry in an Article 32 (remedies for enforcement of rights) petition,” observed the bench.

The bench also rejected a plea by former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan to hold defence ministry officials liable for perjury i.e. giving false information to the court.

A huge controversy was sought to be created about the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the Rafale deal, as the earlier judgment had noted that the CAG report has been placed before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Parliament. The Supreme Court, however, accepted the explanation given by the government.

“We are of the view that the confusion arose on account of two portions of the paragraph referring to both what had been done and what was proposed to be done” said the bench.

The SC bench declined to go into the aspects of pricing differences, procurement process and process by which the offset partner was decided, and in fact, rejected the allegations of “interference” by the PMO that had been raised by the petitioners on basis of certain leaked MoD Documents.

The review plea had alleged that the documents show objections raised to the deal by officials of the Defence ministry and Officers of the Forces.

“We, however, found that there were undoubtedly opinions expressed in the course of the decision-making process, which may be different from the decision taken, but then any decision-making process envisages debates and expert opinion and the final call is with the competent authority, which so exercised it.” The bench has observed while dismissing the allegations.

In what has been hailed as a win by the BJP government, the bench also made certain scathing remarks on the plea itself — “It does appear that the endeavour of the petitioners is to construe themselves as an appellate authority to determine each aspect of the contract and call upon the Court to do the same..” the Supreme Court observed.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the review petition on Rafale is a befitting reply to those leaders and parties who rely on malicious and baseless campaigns. Today’s decision, yet again, reaffirms Modi sarkar’s credentials as a govt which is transparent and corruption-free.” tweeted Home Minister Shri Amit Shah.