Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan seek Rafale judgement review

Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan seek Rafale judgement review

Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the December 14 that dismissed their plea for a probe into the 2016 deal to buy Rafale fighter jets from France.

They sought to recall the judgement and grant an open court hearing, claiming that the verdict contained "patent legal and factual errors". The top court relied upon incorrect claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover, they contended.

"The judgement contains several errors apparent on the face of the record which go to the root of the matter," the petition filed by Bhushan on behalf of himself and two others stated.

The petitioners cited, among others, a news report stating Sudhanshu Mohanty, former Controller General of Defence Accounts and also a former Financial Adviser (Defence Services) in the Ministry of Defence, that the decision to increase the benchmark price taking into account the price in the 126 aircraft deal that never materialised was erroneous.

The petitioners also claimed that their plea for registration of an FIR and investigation by CBI was not dealt with by the top court and instead the contract has been reviewed prematurely without the benefit of any investigation or inquiry into disputed questions of facts. They also contended that the judgment erred in not considering that three-expert member of the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) had specifically objected to increasing the benchmark price from 5.2 billion Euros to 8.2 billion Euros.

Notably, the Union government had on December 15 filed an application seeking “correction of the errors” in the judgement delivered a day before while dismissing a batch of PILs, including those by advocates M L Sharma and Vineet Dhanda and AAP MP Sanjay Singh, seeking the probe into the deal.

The April 2016 deal has led the main Opposition Congress party to attack the Union government for not disclosing the price, reducing the number of aircraft from 126 to 36 and favouring an Anil Ambani's company.

The top court rejected the charges of irregularities in the decision making process and favouritism in selecting Anil Ambani's company as an offset partner of Dassault. It also took note of the government's assertion on pricing as "there are certain better terms with regard to maintenance and weapon package."

“Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters,” a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had said.

However, on the same day, a controversy erupted with Congress President Rahul Gandhi claiming the CAG report on Rafale aircraft pricing was not shared with Public Account Committee contrary to the Supreme Court's findings in the judgement. However, it is to be noted that the apex court's ruling allowing a plea of the government to keep the price under secret was not based on this sole factor.