A three-member bench of the Supreme Court dismissed all petitions seeking review of the apex court’s 2018 order in the Rafale fighter jets deal case, holding that the pleas were without merit.
In the 14 December, 2018 order, the Supreme Court had said that there was no reason to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets and gave a clean chit to the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre. The court had also dismissed the plea for a court-monitored probe into alleged regularities in the deal for procurement of the jets. It had also said that it was not their job to go into the issue of pricing of the fighter planes.
The Bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, rejected the contention that there was a need for registration of FIRs in connection with the deal.
Review petitions against the order passed last year were filed by former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and others, on the grounds that it contained several errors. They contended that the judgment relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover to the court. The petitioners also sought permission to take on record a document leaked from the Defence Ministry as evidence.
On 10 April, the Centre challenged the admissibility of the leaked documents and claimed privilege over them, asserted that the petitioners had procured them in an "illegal way". It further said that the documents were sensitive to national security and explained the Rafale’s war capacity. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that the documents be taken on record.
On 10 May, the last day before the court’s summer vacations, the bench had reserved orders on the review petitions.
A contempt petition filed by BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for wrongly attributing his ‘chowkidar chor hai’ slogan to the court was also dismissed. "Rahul Gandhi needs to be more careful in future," the court ruled.
"The Court cannot be dragged into a political discourse", observed Justice Kaul, who wrote the judgment for the bench.
Lekhi had accused Gandhi of misquoting the 10 April order of the apex court in which it had allowed additional leaked documents to be put on record as evidence in the Rafale case.
Gandhi, then chief of the Congress party, had said during a Lok Sabha election rally that the apex court had accepted that 'chowkidar' (a term with which he referred to Prime Minister Modi), is a ‘chor' (thief). He was issued a contempt notice by the apex court, with Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi maintain that Gandhi would either have to tender an apology or face criminal contempt proceedings.
Even though Gandhi tendered an unconditional apology, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who represented Lekhi, had argued that Gandhi's apology should be rejected and action must be taken against him. "He (Gandhi) has only expressed regret. The law is clear in contempt cases that the line starts with an unconditional apology," he had submitted before the court.
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Updated Date: Nov 14, 2019 12:24:34 IST