Sinha, Shourie, Bhushan move SC seeking review of Rafale verdict

Sinha, Shourie, Bhushan move SC seeking review of Rafale verdict
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New Delhi: Former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie along with advocate Prashant Bhushan approached the Supreme Court Wednesday seeking review of its December 14 judgement which dismissed all PILs alleging irregularities in the procurement of 36 Rafale jets from France.

The apex court had relied upon “patently incorrect” claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover in the court, they alleged in their review plea.

They said that they were not given an opportunity to be heard on the claims made by the government in the note “resulting in gross miscarriage of justice”.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on December 14 dismissed all Public Interest Litigations (PILs) against the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets, saying there was no occasion to “really doubt the decision making process” warranting setting aside of the contract.

The top court had rejected the pleas seeking lodging of an FIR and the court-monitored probe alleging irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal, in which both the countries have entered into an inter-governmental agreement (IGA).

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.

Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan have claimed that the judgement was based on “errors apparent on the face of the record” and non-consideration of subsequent information which has come to light would cause a grave miscarriage of justice.

Besides seeking review of the judgement, they have also sought hearing of the plea in an open court.

They have claimed that prayer in their PIL seeking registration of FIR and investigation by the CBI in Rafale deal was not dealt with by the court and “instead the contract has been reviewed prematurely without the benefit of any investigation or inquiry into disputed questions of facts”.

They said they had made a complaint to the CBI on October 4 last year in connection with the Rafale deal and since no FIR was lodged by the agency, they had moved the top court seeking direction for registration of an FIR and probe by CBI.

“In the instant case without any investigation by statutory authorities (as sought by the petitioner) or even by way of a commission, the court has erred in prematurely reviewing the contract itself, without even affording an opportunity to the CBI to apprise the court of the status of the complaint that was made by the petitioners and findings thereof,” the review plea said.

It further said, “The judgement relies upon patently incorrect claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover to the court without being shown to the petitioners which is a violation of principles of natural justice.”

The review plea said the verdict was regarding prayers made by other petitioners in connected matters to judicially review the deal itself and no where in the verdict, “CBI’s dereliction of its duty to register an FIR on petitioner’s complaint is even discussed”.

It said that the Centre had submitted in the court a note on pricing but the same was not shared with the petitioners and they had no opportunity to rebut the averments made in the note.

“It appears that based on the note the court has accepted the government’s contention that details as regards pricing are ‘privileged’,” the plea said.

It also referred to a paragraph in its judgement in which a reference was made that pricing details have been shared with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the CAG’s report has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

“This is patently false. The CAG is yet to conclude its audit of the contract. The report has not been finalised so there is no question of it having been examined by the PAC or a redacted report having been placed before the parliament and being in the public domain,” the plea said.

A day after the judgement was delivered, the Centre had on December 15 last year filed an application in the top court seeking correction in a paragraph in its judgement on Rafale deal in which a reference was made about CAG report and PAC.

Regarding the government’s application seeking correction in the judgement, the review plea has claimed that the “said application imputes that three justices misinterpreted that one paragraph in the same manner which is highly improbable.”

“The court has applied its mind and erred in relying on a non-existent fact to render its judgement which is not a ‘accidental slip’ but rather a substantial error,” it said.

While claiming to certain media reports, the review plea also alleged that the Centre had “blatantly misled” the court and the “court has grossly erred in placing reliance on false averments in the note not even supported by an affidavit”.

It alleged that several new facts had come into light after the verdict was reserved by the court “which go to the root of the matter and falsify the claims of the government which have been relied upon by the court in its judgement.” PTI ABA MNL RKS