Rafale deal: Centre approaches Supreme Court; seeks dismissal of all review petitions
The government has approached the Supreme Court with written submissions, saying that all review petitions in the controversial Rafale deal should be dismissed. These submissions were filed on Friday. One of the petitioners, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan had told the SC that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had no precedent to redact pricing details from its official report. He told the bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph that the CAG had never withheld pricing details in its reports in the past. He also questioned why the Cabinet Committee on Security deleted the standard anti-corruption rules from the inter-governmental agreement post-August 24, 2016, and that the government hid this information from the court.
In an earlier hearing in the case on May 10, lawyer Prashant Bhushan had referred to various aspects of the deal, including the alleged suppression of material facts and had sought the registration of a criminal investigation in the case.
Citing a leaked document of the Ministry of Defence, which alleged the PMO had undertaken parallel negotiations with the French government, Bhushan had said that three members of the Indian Negotiation Team (INT) had raised objections over it. Bhushan said all the allegations warranted the registration of an FIR. Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said: "There is no question of any corruption. The court has already decided that in the Rafale case verdict (on December 14 last year)." On the pricing of the fighter jets, the Attorney General said this was covered under Article 10 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement, which was not supposed to be disclosed. He said the court never asked for pricing but sought only the procedure adopted in the deal. "We produced the procedure. And even if there are errors in it, that will not be a ground for review. The entire judgment cannot be set aside," he said.
In the earlier hearing, the Attorney General had also raised objections over the grounds on which the petitioners were seeking review of the Supreme Court's verdict on the Rafale deal. He said the review of the judgment was being sought on the basis of some documents leaked to the media. Seeking dismissal of the review petitions, he said there's been an inter-governmental agreement between the two countries for the defence deals, and not to the award of contract for construction of flyover or dams. The rejoined affidavit filed in the apex court by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, and Prashant Bhushan had urged the SC to review its Rafale verdict, saying that it was obtained through multiple falsehoods. The petitioners had accused the government of misleading the courts on more than one accounts and alleged it suppressed material and relevant information. The government's statement in the court had said that there was no error in the SC's "categorical and emphatic" findings recorded in its December14 verdict.
The Centre said the petitioner could not seek to open the entire matter again on the basis of some reports in the press and internal incomplete information leaked to the media. On the perjury action sought against government servants for allegedly misleading the court, the government told the court that the plea for perjury action was "completely misconceived" and that such action could not be taken on the basis of media reports and incomplete internal file notings.
Manoj Sharma with agency inputs