Rafale verdict: Supreme Court dismisses all review petitions in fighter jet deal case

In a major political setback for the Congress and its former president, Rahul Gandhi, the Supreme Court on Thursday not only dismissed the review petition in the Rafale case but also censured Gandhi for wrongly attributing his remark “Chowkidar chor hai" to the apex court.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded an apology from Gandhi and his party, alleging there was a deliberate attempt to malign the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union government.

The three-judge bench was presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprised Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph. The bench stated there was no merit in the review petition and that no probe was required in the purchase deal. The petitioners had alleged irregularities in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault Aviation.

In a unanimous verdict, the bench concluded that it was not appropriate to order a roving inquiry into the allegations. The petition was dismissed on the grounds that it is not within the purview of judicial review.

Delving into the merit of dismissal, the three-judge bench said, “We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with a contract for aircraft, which was pending before different governments for quite some time and the necessity for those aircraft has never been in dispute."

Justice K M Joseph observed in his separate judgment in the Rafale review that the main verdict will not stand in the way of CBI taking lawful action on the complaint raising corruption allegations on the Rafale deal, subject to getting approval under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

He also observed that the review petitioners - Advocate Prashant Bhushan, former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie - have otherwise made out a case for acting on the complaint. However, no direction in that regard can be ordered by the Court. Two reasons were cited by Justice Joseph for this:

As per the dictum in Lalitakumari case, FIR in corruption cases can be registered only after a preliminary enquiry. But the petitioners have not sought the relief of a preliminary enquiry being conducted.

Section 17A of the PC Act mandates prior approval for investigation as well. Petitioners have not sought any relief in the writ petition for prior approval as per Section 17A.

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