Rafale deal: India top court rejects review plea for probe

File Photo: Rafale combat jet

Snap Shot

  • Court corrects previous judgment that had errors regading CAG report on Rafale
  • Court says satisfied on Rafale pricing, which was marginally lower that earlier offer
  • Court accepts ex-Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s apology for politicising judgment

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India today rejected and dismissed a petition to review its December 2018 judgment giving a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the purchase of 36 Rafale combat jets from France in 2016.

In a 107-order, a Bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K. M. Joseph did not find merit in the petition, which had sought a registration of a case and an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s top crime probing agency.

This is a huge setback for the main opposition, Indian National Congress and its former president Rahul Gandhi, who had pegged his entire 2019 parliamentary election campaign on his claim that there was corruption in the Rafale deal and lost badly at the hustings, including from his own constituency and family pocket-borough of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2015, the Modi government had cancelled a 2007 tender for 126 combat jets under which Rafale-manufacturer Dassault Avaition was the winner. While on an official trip to Paris, Modi had announced that India will enter into a government deal with France to buy 36 Rafale jets off-the-shelf to meet the Indian Air Force’s immediate requirement.

Gandhi had primarily made four startling claims and its variants: (a) Modi government had paid a higher price for the 36 Rafales than what had been offered under the 2007 tender, (b) Modi government had ignored Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to manufacture the Rafale in India, (c) Modi government favoured industrialist Anil Ambani and his company Reliance Group to bag the offset contract for the Rafale deal, and (d) Modi government had circumvented the established defence procurement procedures to enter into a government contract for the 36 Rafales.

None of Gandhi’s claims were held to be true by the Supreme Court. Of course, Gandhi was not the petitioner in the Rafale case before the top court. Former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with advocate Prashant Bhushan were the main petitioners.

The top court also accepted an unconditional apology from Gandhi for politicising the Dec. 2018 judgment and falsely claiming that the court had held Prime Minister Modi a thief while on campaign trail during the 2019 elections. Hence, the contempt proceeding, on a petition filed by ruling party (BJP) member of Parliament Meenakshi Lekhi against Gandhi, was dropped.

The findings of the Supreme Court in the Review Petitions can be read here.

India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh wholeheartedly welcomed the Supreme Court’s “categorical dismissal” of the review petitions in the Rafale case. “With this pronouncement, the government stands vindicated. The SC verdict is also a judgement on our government’s transparency in decision making.”

Rajnath Singh said the allegation of corruption in the Rafale deal was “nothing but an attempt to malign the clean & honest image” of Prime Minister Modi and his government.

“The people of India will not forgive the opponents for their slanderous campaign and calumny and they should apologise for misleading the people.”

Political Reactions to the Judgment:

But this judgment in the Review Petition is not the end of the political battle on the Rafale deal, as the Congress Party has already opened another front, relying on the part of the judgment written by Justice K. M. Joseph. Watch this space for more in the days to come.

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