Congress finds solace in Judge KM Joseph’s words

New Delhi: The Congress on Thursday latched onto Supreme Court judge K M Joseph’s observation that the judgment "would not stand in the way" of the CBI taking action on a complaint seeking lodging of an FIR.

Joseph said so in his 91-page lengthy judgment even while concurring with the 16-page ruling of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, rejecting the demand for a probe into the deal.

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Justice Joseph, as the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, had restored a Congress government which was dismissed by the Modi dispensation. Later, his transfer and elevation to the Supreme Court was stalled for nearly one and a half year.

Rahul Gandhi sought to highlight Justice Joseph's contentions in his concurring judgment. Rahul tweeted: "Justice Joseph of the Supreme Court has opened a huge door into investigation of the Rafale scam.

"He demanded: "An investigation must now begin in full earnest. A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) may also be set up to probe this scam."

Congress chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala also reiterated the party's demand for a JPC probe, saying the Supreme Court judgment on the review has paved the way for a "comprehensive criminal investigation" into the Rafale scam.

He, along with spokesman Jaiveer Shergil, at a press conference, underscored that Justice Joseph’s remarks have re-affirmed the Congress Party's stance that the court has 'limited jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution' and it is not the appropriate forum to decide on issues of (i) contractual corruption, (ii) malicious bungling in prices, (iii) altered specifications, (iv) crony capitalism and (v) violation of the mandatory provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedure.

They said three unequivocal conclusions stand out in the judgment. These are that the Supreme Court has "constricted jurisdiction" while independent agencies or police/CBI are equipped to undertake all forms of investigation with no such restrictions, as in case of the court.

To that extent, the judgment on Rafale will not stand in the way of any such investigation.

Surjewala accused the BJP government and its ministers, including Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, of misleading the nation that the judgment is a "clean chit" to the government, as it rather paves the way for full investigation.

"Layers of corruption in the Rafale scam can be answered only through a fact-finding impartial JPC investigation," he said.

He went on to reiterate what he described as nine relevant questions in the Rafale scam that remain unanswered, asserting that answers to these questions cannot be found through a court judgment but only through a detailed fact-finding investigation by JPC.

Surjewala chided the BJP government for indulging in celebrations, asking it to agree to JPC investigation as "otherwise, it will be proved beyond doubt that it is not 'corruption free' but actually wants to remain 'investigation free."

He asserted that until an impartial JPC probe is in place, the Rafale deal will continue to be questioned for stinks of corruption, collusion and crony capitalism and undermining of national interest.

Surjewala asked: "Will the BJP government show the courage to grant sanction to prosecute and investigate the Rafale scam under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act?" It was this particular section that Justice Joseph pinpointed as a stumbling block in any investigation.