Rafale verdict: SC drops contempt plea against Rahul Gandhi

The Supreme Court, on Thursday, pronounced its verdict on petitions seeking a review of its December 14 judgment dismissing the prayer for a court-monitored investigation into the India-France deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, dismissed a batch of review petitions challenging its December 2018 verdict in the Rafale case. The Bench, which also comprised Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, said the petitions “lack merit”.

“We don’t feel necessary to order FIR or roving inquiry into Rafale deal case,” the apex court said.

The apex court also closed the contempt plea against Rahul Gandhi for his remarks relating to Rafale deal, saying he should be careful in future.

The opposition led by Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the aircraft, built by Dassault Aviation of France, was purchased under a direct government-to-government agreement at a much higher price than the one negotiated for 126 aircraft by the UPA government under an open tender. The opposition questioned and raise suspicion over the deal done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to France in April 2015.

Following this four petitions were filed before the court on December 14, 2018, — one each by lawyers M L Sharma and Vineet Dhanda, one by Sanjay Singh, and one by Sinha, Shourie, and Bhushan. The petitions questioned the decision-making process, pricing, and selection of offset partner claiming that Modi-led government had overlooked India’s interest and given preference to a certain company on the basis of certain official documents.

The government, however, defended that these documents were illegally photocopied and leaked while they enjoyed protection under The Official Secrets Act, 1923. The government then sought their removal from the record of the case, saying they were of sensitive nature and, if they were made public, they could jeopardise national security.

The apex court however rejected the government’s objections to the admissibility of the documents sought to be relied on by the review petitioners in its April 10, 2019 order.

Today, while dismissing all the four petitions as well, the Bench said it saw “no reason for any intervention… on the sensitive issue of purchase of 36 defence aircraft by the Indian Government”, and that “perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving enquiry…, especially in such matters”.

It rejected the pleas for a court-monitored investigation into the deal, saying there was “no occasion to doubt the (decisionmaking) process” leading to the award of the contract, and there was nothing to show that the government had favoured anyone commercially.

Former Indian Air Force chief, B S Dhanoa welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court. Speaking to ANI, he said, “I hope the matter is now laid to rest. Raking up such issues to get political gains, putting the interest of your armed forces behind, I think is not right.”

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh welcomed the judgment by Supreme Court saying it is a vindication of their government’s stand. “The transparency of our govt’s decision making has been given approval by Supreme Court. The purchase of Rafale jets was done in a completely transparent manner, keeping in mind the urgency to update and upgrade India’s defence preparedness. The issues pertaining to defence preparedness and national security should never be politicised,” his tweet further read.

BJP’s spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain tweeted saying that truth has triumphed.

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