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Supreme Court to hear petition to review Rafale verdict today

The hearing follows a controversy after attorney general KK Venugopal told the top court that the petitioners used stolen documents in their review petitions and “should not be relied on”.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2019 09:24 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
rafale,rafale scam,rafale hearing
The Supreme Court will on Thursday resume hearing petitions calling for a review of its judgement in the Rafale case from December last year that said there was no reason to doubt the purchase process or the need for the fighter jets.(PTI)

The Supreme Court will on Thursday resume hearing petitions calling for a review of its judgement in the Rafale case from December last year that said there was no reason to doubt the purchase process or the need for the fighter jets.

The hearing follows a controversy after attorney general KK Venugopal told the top court that the petitioners used stolen documents in their review petitions and “should not be relied on”.

The top court had declined to order a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the purchase of 36 French-made Rafale jets on December 14, saying “perceptions of individuals cannot be a basis for a roving inquiry”.

The petitions challenging the Rs 59,000 crore deal were filed by activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, Aam Aadmi Party Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh and advocates ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda earlier this year.

Also read: ‘Without Rafale, how can we resist F-16s’: Centre to Supreme Court

They had questioned the deal over the lack of transparency over the pricing of the jets; an offsets deal that seemed to favour a private firm; flouting of due process in closing the deal; and that the deal isn’t a government-to-government deal at all as it has been pitched because France refused to offer India a sovereign guarantee and instead gave it a letter of comfort. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has denied most of these charges.

And on Wednesday, the Centre told the Supreme Court in an affidavit that the widely-circulated review petition against its December verdict in the Rafale deal that includes leaked defence ministry documents jeopardises national security and should be dismissed. The Centre has also argued that the documents presented a “selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations” on a matter relating to national security and defence.

Also read: Secret papers in Rafale petition hurt India: Govt

In the last Supreme Court hearing on March 6, the Centre’s top law officer, attorney general KK Venugopal, had asked the court to reject petitions seeking review of the Rafale verdict claiming that the petitioners’ case rested on stolen papers acquired from “present or former employees” of the defence ministry.

Venugopal later claimed the Rafale documents were not stolen from the defence ministry and that what he meant in his submission before the Supreme Court was that petitioners in the application used “photocopies of the original” papers, deemed secret by the government.

The NDA government has been under sharp criticised by the opposition, which accuses Prime Minister Narendra Modi of single-handedly pushing through the deal to buy overpriced jets without following procedures. The government has also been attacked for buying only 36 aircraft when the Indian Air Force needed a lot more.

The government’s decision to enter the $8.7 billion government-to-government deal with France to buy the warplanes made by Dassault was announced in April 2015, with an agreement signed a little over a year later. This replaced the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

It has become controversial, with the opposition, led by the Congress, claiming that the price at which India is buying Rafale aircraft now is Rs 1,670 crore for each, three times the Rs 526 crore, the initial bid by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft.

The opposition has also questioned the deal over the fact that one of the offset deals signed by Dassault is with a joint venture it has with Reliance Group of Anil Ambani. The Congress claims the earlier deal was scrapped and a new one signed just to provide Ambani with this opportunity for an offset deal.

Both the government and Reliance Group have repeatedly denied this.

First Published: Mar 14, 2019 09:24 IST