Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie move SC to review its verdict on Rafale deal
The petition says the 14 December judgement relied on facts that were ‘patently false’ and should, therefore, be recalled
New Delhi: Former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking a review of its judgement that upheld the government’s decision-making process in purchasing Rafale fighter aircraft.
The petition said the 14 December judgement relied on facts that were “patently false” and should, therefore, be recalled.
It also criticized the top court’s reliance on documents placed by the centre in a sealed cover and a report of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) on the pricing issue in delivering its verdict, even though the audit is still to be completed.
Deeming it to be a substantial error on part of the top court, the petition stated: “The government has blatantly misled the hon’ble court which has grossly erred in placing reliance on false averments in the note not even supported by an affidavit. As the judgement is based on evidently false averments in the note not shared with the petitioners, on that ground alone the entire judgement ought to be not just reviewed but recalled.”
The centre’s application for correction in the judgement regarding the submission of the report of the CAG on the pricing issue of the Rafale jets, and its status before Parliament is also pending before the top court.
The centre’s submission had recorded that under paragraph 25 of the judgement, it had stated that pricing details were shared with the CAG and that the report was examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before Parliament, the judgement added.
This had come under question as there is no CAG report on this yet.
Seeking to clear the confusion, the centre’s application had said: “The submission by the Union of India, to the effect that the report “is” examined by the public accounts committee (PAC) was a description of the procedure, which is followed in the normal course, in regard to the report of the CAG. The very fact that the present tense “is” is used would mean that the reference is to the procedure that will be followed as and when the CAG report is ready”.
Similarly, the statement that only a redacted version of the report “is” placed before Parliament, is referred to in the judgement as “was” placed before Parliament and is in public domain, the application stated.
On 14 December, the Supreme Court said it found no evidence of wrongdoing in the government’s decision-making process, rejecting petitions for an investigation into the Rafale deal.
A bench headed by chief justice Ranjan Gogoi ruled: “In view of our findings on all the three aspects and having heard the matter in detail, we find no reason for any intervention by this court on the sensitive issue of purchase of 36 defence aircraft by the Indian government.”
The court ruled that “perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters”.
While rejecting a batch of petitions for a probe into India’s purchase of 36 French-made Rafale fighter jets, the Supreme Court said it found no evidence of wrongdoing in the government’s decision-making process or in the choice of Reliance Infrastructure Ltd as the Indian partner and refused to go into pricing details.
The court also refrained from ruling on the pricing aspect of the fighter jets. A central argument of the Congress party is that the successor deal is much more expensive than the original one.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s decision to buy 36 jets off the shelf in a government-to-government agreement in April 2015, cancelling the UPA government’s 2012 decision to buy 18 Rafale jets in fly-away condition and manufacture 108 in India.
The delivery of the jets is slated to begin in September 2019.
Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure Ltd has a 51:49 joint venture with the French aircraft manufacturer, called Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd, which has an offset contract of about ₹30,000 crore for 36 Rafale jets. However, former French president François Hollande had said that the France was given no choice in the selection of the Indian offset partner, and the Reliance Group’s name was suggested by the Indian government.
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