SC to hear PIL for action against PM, middleman in Rafale jet deal

Advocate-petitioner ML Sharma mentioned his PIL before Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, who said the matter will be listed after two weeks. No date, however, was set for the hearing.
By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 13, 2021 04:29 AM IST
The Supreme Court.(File Photo)

The Supreme Court will hear after two weeks a public interest litigation (PIL) that seeks the prosecution of alleged middleman Sushen Gupta and Prime Minister Narendra Modi under charges of cheating, breach of trust, and criminal conspiracy, over alleged kickbacks of 1 million Euros in the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Advocate-petitioner ML Sharma mentioned his PIL before Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, who said the matter will be listed after two weeks. No date, however, was set for the hearing.

Sharma claimed he was making the rounds of the registry of the top court to get this matter listed urgently, but to little avail. The lawyer also requested the CJI to hear the petition himself, but justice Bobde, who retires on April 23, did not comment on it.

Read more: Several staff members of Supreme Court test positive for Covid-19

In December 2018, the top court rejected a bunch of petitions, including one by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, for a court-monitored probe into the fighter jet deal between India and France. It noted at the time that there was no evidence on irregularity or corruption in the government-to-government deal for 36 fighter jets, and that the decision-making process could not be doubted.

Later, in November 2019, the apex court dismissed a batch of petitions that sought a review of the 2018 judgment on the ground that certain documents relating to the deal were concealed from the court by the government during the previous round. The court held there was no need for a “roving inquiry” into the case.

However, Sharma has now relied on reports by Mediapart, a French online journal, published earlier this month. Medipart claimed that it was in possession of documents that showed Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the Rafale jet, and its industrial partner Thales, a defence electronics firm, paid “middleman” Sushen Gupta around 1 million euros (approximately 8.9 crore by the current exchange rate) “secret commissions” in connection with the 59,000 crore deal. Gupta’s name also figures in the Agusta Westland charge sheet.

The Rafale deal became controversial, with the Opposition, led by the Congress, claiming that the price at which India bought the Rafale aircraft was 1,670 crore each, three times the initial bid of 526 crore by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft. It claimed the previous deal included a technology transfer agreement with HAL. The BJP dismissed the allegations, and called the reports “baseless”.

The Supreme Court will hear after two weeks a public interest litigation (PIL) that seeks the prosecution of alleged middleman Sushen Gupta and Prime Minister Narendra Modi under charges of cheating, breach of trust, and criminal conspiracy, over alleged kickbacks of 1 million Euros in the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Advocate-petitioner ML Sharma mentioned his PIL before Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, who said the matter will be listed after two weeks. No date, however, was set for the hearing.

Sharma claimed he was making the rounds of the registry of the top court to get this matter listed urgently, but to little avail. The lawyer also requested the CJI to hear the petition himself, but justice Bobde, who retires on April 23, did not comment on it.

Read more: Several staff members of Supreme Court test positive for Covid-19

In December 2018, the top court rejected a bunch of petitions, including one by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, for a court-monitored probe into the fighter jet deal between India and France. It noted at the time that there was no evidence on irregularity or corruption in the government-to-government deal for 36 fighter jets, and that the decision-making process could not be doubted.

Later, in November 2019, the apex court dismissed a batch of petitions that sought a review of the 2018 judgment on the ground that certain documents relating to the deal were concealed from the court by the government during the previous round. The court held there was no need for a “roving inquiry” into the case.

However, Sharma has now relied on reports by Mediapart, a French online journal, published earlier this month. Medipart claimed that it was in possession of documents that showed Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the Rafale jet, and its industrial partner Thales, a defence electronics firm, paid “middleman” Sushen Gupta around 1 million euros (approximately 8.9 crore by the current exchange rate) “secret commissions” in connection with the 59,000 crore deal. Gupta’s name also figures in the Agusta Westland charge sheet.

The Rafale deal became controversial, with the Opposition, led by the Congress, claiming that the price at which India bought the Rafale aircraft was 1,670 crore each, three times the initial bid of 526 crore by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft. It claimed the previous deal included a technology transfer agreement with HAL. The BJP dismissed the allegations, and called the reports “baseless”.

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