Rafale deal: Rahul Gandhi's 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' jibe has fallen flat, he should at least not cast aspersions on SC
Rafale deal verdict: It's ironic that Congress is casting aspersions on the capability and integrity of the Supreme Court, an institution which all Indians look up to for delivery of justice
Until some years ago, there seemed to be an unwritten code on how parties or persons would react to a verdict delivered by the by Supreme Court, even if they were adversely affected by the judgment — with full faith in the judiciary, they would abide by a judgment that was not in their favor, and some would even add “welcome it”.
But lately, there is an increased tendency among sections of activist lawyers, supposedly left-liberal commentators, and Congress leaders, to attack the mechanism of the apex court if a verdict or even the proceedings of the court are not of their liking. It does not matter to them that the Supreme Court didn't find merit in their allegations and dismissed their petition. A bunch of them committed top lawyers would still argue and vow to take their campaign to another level.
This is exactly what happened today when Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi-led three-judge bench dismissed all petitions casting aspersions on the “government to government” deal between India and France on purchasing Rafale fighter jets, ruling out any probe of any kind.
A petition in the Supreme Court was first filed by ML Sharma. Then another lawyer Vineet Dhanda petitioned the court seeking a court-monitored probe into the deal. Aam Admi Party leader Sanjay Singh also filed a petition on the deal. Then two disgruntled former Union ministers in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government who have now become kind of informal allies of AAP, Congress and Left-liberals — Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie — and activist advocate Prashant Bhushan moved the apex court with a plea for a direction to the CBI to register FIR for alleged irregularities in the deal.
These four sets of petitions were filed broadly questioning three things – the procedure followed in the Rafale deal, the pricing of the fighter jets and the selection of offset partners.
Now consider what the CJI-headed bench said, "We don't find substantial matter to interfere with issue of procurement, pricing and offset partner in Rafale jet deal… there is no reason for interference in the choice of offset partner and perception of individuals can't be the basis for roving inquiry in sensitive issue of defence procurement… not a case of commercial favouritism by Government of India."
The court said it had studied the matter "extensively" and was "satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process".
The court couldn’t have been more clear in its order. The verdict obviously was delivered after lengthy arguments by both sides.
But instead of accepting the judicial verdict from the highest court of the land, a barrage of angry reactions came from Prashant Bhushan, Arun Shourie, and senior Congress leaders. They are practically refusing the unanimous verdict of the three-judge bench led by CJI Gogoi.
Bhushan said the “judgment is totally wrong, against interest of the nation”, also declaring that their "campaign will certainly not drop".
The question is, did he along with Sinha and Shourie approached the Supreme Court to carry their “campaign” a step forward? The Supreme Court, as per the law established and as per the perception of 130 crores of Indians, is the highest forum to seek justice, not to be a party or an arbitrator in some campaign unleashed by individuals, activists, lawyers, and political parties.
Courts are where one goes to settle a question of law, especially when one feels their rights are being usurped or they have been wronged. The Supreme Court is the final word on all such matters. It doesn’t work to our liking. It works on what is in front of it, in the form of evidence and what the Constitution says. Is the country’s top court a place to launch, anti-corruption or political, campaigns? Surely, the court has more serious matters to concern itself with.
But it didn’t matter either to these petitioners or to the Congress that the apex court had used very strong words about their plea and their perceived charge of corruption in the Rafale deal: the "perception of individuals can't be the basis for roving inquiry in sensitive issue of defence procurement”.
The big bang 2019 parliamentary election is only over four months away and there is fear among the Congress leaders and Narendra Modi detractors of all hues that a strong verdict of this kind on an issue which Rahul and his cheerleaders — spread over a variety of professional space — were trying to make electoral corruption plank against Modi.
Rahul rather distastefully charged "Hindustan ka chowkidar chor" and his assertion helped the Congress snatch three Hindi heartland states from BJP, but now it is established that PM “Modi is corrupt” has fallen flat.
The court verdict has punctured Rahul’s Modi is a "thief" charge. BJP president Amit Shah held a special press conference at party headquarters at 1 pm to blast Rahul. Quoting from the Supreme Court verdict, Shah said the Rafale deal "is a financial advantage to the nation". It was his day to go ballistic against Congress and its president "chor ka boom wahi laga rahe the jinhe chowkidar ka dar tha (those who were complaining against the chowkidar were afraid of the chowkidar)".
But the Congress continues to be unrepentant disregarding the Supreme Court verdict and saying only a Joint Parliamentary Committee (not even the Supreme Court) was competent to take up the Rafale issue. The party is even insinuating that the petitioners in the Supreme Court were proxies for BJP. It's ironic that the party which ruled the country for over 60 years is making such claims and casting aspersions on the capability and integrity of an institution which all Indians look up to for delivery of justice.
The verdict has clearly turned the table on Congress. On Thursday and the day before, Congress adjourned the proceedings of the Parliament on the Rafale deal. On Friday, when the Supreme Court verdict came about 20 minutes before the Parliament could start, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha and Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Lok Sabha challenged the Congress for a debate on Rafale. Congress benches did not respond and both Houses were adjourned on some trivial matter. Outside the Parliament, Congress leaders had a lot to say (repeating old charge) in 30-second television bites, but they would not participate in a structured debate in both the Houses of the Parliament.
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