The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a plea seeking review of its verdict in the Rafale case. Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan had earlier moved the apex court, seeking review of its December 14 judgment on the Rafale fighter jet deal. The petitioners alleged that the court relied upon “incorrect claims” made by the Centre.
When Prashant Bhushan requested the bench led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to hear the petition on
Rafale Deal, Ranjan Gogoi said, “Will do something for the listing of the case as a bench is to be constituted for it.”
The bench of CJI Gogoi, Justices SK Kaul and K M Joseph had earlier dismissed all four petitions seeking a court-monitored probe, saying it found “no occasion to really doubt the process” of decision making, pricing and selection of offset partners.
Declining to interfere in the Rafale deal, the bench said the perception of individuals cannot be the basis for a roving enquiry in matters of sensitive nature.
The judges said, “We do not find any substantial material on record to show that this is a case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian government, as the option to choose the IOP (Indian Offset Partner) does not rest with the Indian government”.
One of the issues raised by the petitioners was the choice of Reliance Aerostructure Ltd as an offset partner by Dassault Aviation Ltd, which manufactures the Rafale. They alleged that the deal was tweaked to favour the Anil Ambani-owned company.
Earlier this month, a CAG report on Capital Acquisitions in Indian Air Force, which was tabled in Rajya Sabha, noted that the Rafale deal negotiated by the NDA government was 2.86 per cent lower than the previous one from UPA-era.
Compared to the earlier deal in which 126 Rafale jets were to be purchased, according to the CAG report, the country has saved 17.08 per cent in costs towards the India Specific Enhancements to be fitted in the 36 Rafale jets under the new deal. The CAG also noted that there was an improvement of only one month in the delivery schedule of the 2016 contract in comparison to the 2007 offer.
After the apex court’s verdict on Rafale, a controversy erupted over a paragraph in its 29-page ruling. On Page 21, in Para 25 of the judgment, the bench stated that the pricing details of the Rafale was shared with the CAG which, in turn, shared its report with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
But Mallikarjun Kharge, who chairs the PAC, says no such report has come to him yet and “neither does the CAG know about it”
A day after the Rafale judgment, the Centre had moved an application in the Supreme Court for carrying out a correction in the paragraph. The Centre pointed out that “misinterpretation” of its note has “resulted in a controversy in the public domain”. In the application, the Centre said the two sentences in paragraph 25 of the judgment appeared to have been based on the note submitted by it along with the pricing details in a sealed cover, but indicated the words used by the court lent a different meaning.
Clarifying its position, the Centre said it did not say that the CAG report was examined by PAC or a redacted portion was placed before Parliament.