The Supreme Court will rule on Thursday on a batch of petitions seeking a review of its December 2018 verdict that dismissed pleas seeking a court-monitored probe of alleged irregularities in the ₹59,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal with French planemaker Dassault Aviation.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, which also comprises justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, reserved its verdict on the review petitions on May 10. The petitions have sought a re-examination of the December 2018 verdict, which found that due process had been followed in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and lawyer Prashant Bhushan were among those who had filed the review pleas.
In its final arguments on May 10, the government opposed the reopening of the Rafale case while asking the Supreme Court to refrain from examining the deal. The government argued that nowhere in the world do courts scrutinise agreements related to defence purchases.
Sinha, Shourie, and Bhushan have also pressed for perjury proceedings against the Centre for allegedly suppressing information. They claimed that the government misled the court ahead of its December 2018 verdict.
The petitioners accused the government of deliberately concealing crucial notings related to the deal. They maintained that this included a dissent note of three members of the Indian negotiating team, alleging that it vitiates the December 2018 verdict and necessitates a criminal inquiry into the matter.
In his arguments on May 10, attorney general (AG) KK Venugopal said that a review is impermissible in such a sensitive case and cautioned the court that a defence deal was not subject to judicial review. Sinha, Shourie, and Bhushan have contended that the CBI failed to act on their complaint over the deal and violated the top court’s judgement on the filing of complaints.
Venugopal told the court on May 10 that no prima facie case had been made out in the Rafale case when justice Joseph put forth the petitioners’ query to the AG as to why no action was taken as per an earlier SC verdict that makes it obligatory for an investigative agency to register a criminal case if a complaint is filed.
Justice Joseph questioned Venugopal about the absence of a transfer of technology element in the Rafale deal, unlike previous deals.
As per petitioners, an earlier Rafale deal with Dassault Aviation was for 126 aircraft, of which 18 were to come in a flyaway condition while state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd was to build the remaining through transfer of technology.