SC rejects petitions seeking review of clean chit to NDA govt in Rafale fighter jet deal

Reading out the judgement, Justice SK Kaul said, ''There are no grounds to order an FIR and that the court cannot initiate a "roving and fishing inquiry". 

SC rejects petitions seeking review of clean chit to NDA govt in Rafale fighter jet deal

NEW DELHI: The 36 Rafale fighter aircraft deal for the Indian Air Force (IAF) signed by the BJP-led NDA government will not be investigated as the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the review petitions challenging its 2018 order giving a clean chit to the government of the day. The petitions had demanded a CBI probe into the purchase of 36 fully-loaded Rafale fighter jets from France but the apex court found no merit in the arguments while upholding its previous order in which it gave a clean chit to the BJP-led NDA government.

Pronouncing its order, the apex court bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph said, ''There is no moral ground to order a CBI probe into the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.'' Reading out the judgement, Justice SK Kaul said, ''There are no grounds to order an FIR and that the court cannot initiate a roving and fishing inquiry". 

With this, the top court also dismissed all review petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal.

The Supreme Court had in its 2018 order given a clean chit to the Narendra Modi government on a plea seeking investigation into alleged irregularities in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets by India from France.

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The top court had on December 14, 2018, dismissed petitions seeking court-monitored probe into Rafale fighter jet deal, saying that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the deal. The top court had also said that it was not its job to go into the issue of pricing of fighter planes.

Subsequently, review petitions were filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and others against the top court`s judgement. They sought probe into Rs 58,000 deal and registration of first information report (FIR).

Their petition states that the December 14 verdict contained several errors and it relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover to the court, which is a violation of the principle of natural justice.

They also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had signed an agreement for 36 Rafale jets on April 10, 2015, without any such requirement being given by the Air Force Headquarters and without the approval of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which are the mandated first steps for any defence procurement.

The Centre had also filed an affidavit seeking dismissal of the review petition after some internal documents of the Defence Ministry related to the Rafale fighter deal came out in a section of the media. The Centre asserted that the petitioners had procured privileged documents in an "illegal way" to support their review petitions. 

It told the court that the documents attached by the petitioners are sensitive to national security and relate to war capacity of the combat aircraft. The top court had reserved the order on their pleas in May 2019.

(With Agency inputs)