The Supreme Court also refused to order a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Rs 58,000 crore defence deal,
Rafale verdict: In what comes as a major boost for the Narendra Modi government, the Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a batch of petitions seeking review of its December 2018 verdict giving a clean-chit to the Rafale fighter jets deal between India and France. The petitions sought a court-monitored probe into the procurement of Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation.
Junking the petitions, the apex court underlined that there were grounds to order an inquiry in the matter. “The court can’t have a fishing and roving inquiry,” Justice SK Kaul, who was part of the three-judge bench including CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice KM Joseph, said while reading out the judgment today.
The court also refused to order a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Rs 58,000 crore defence deal, but noted that the agency was free to go ahead if needed.
The review petition filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan in May this year urged the top court to re-examine its judgment in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets. They claimed that the verdict was based on “multiple falsehoods and suppression of material and relevant information”.
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The Supreme Court, in its verdict on December 14, 2018, had said that it was not its job to get into the pricing of the fighter jets.
The deal to purchase 126 Rafale jets was inked with France by the Congress-led UPA government in 2007. However, the Defence Ministry officially withdrew the original deal in June 2015, a couple of months after PM Narendra Modi’s announcement during his Paris trip that India was buying 36 Rafale fighters.
The Opposition led by the Congress used the Rafale deal to corner the Modi government ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections alleging massive irregularities. The then Congress president Rahul Gandhi led Congress’ attack from the front and even claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office interfered in the deal.
However, Congress’ assault on the BJP and PM Modi, in particular, fizzled out as the saffron party returned power bagging more seats than 2014. Having lost the political mandate in May already, the Supreme Court’s dismissal of petitions challenging its earlier verdict comes as the second loss of face for the Congress in a span of six months.