New Delhi: Even as Bharatiya Janata Party leaders celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to not order a probe in the Rafale deal, the Congress said the judgement “reaffirmed” its stance that the alleged fighter-jet purchase scam was outside the purview of courts.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday morning dismissed petitions which sought a review of its December 2018 judgement that had declined to order an investigation into the controversial aircraft deal.
Against this backdrop, the Congress said that it has always maintained that the courts are not the appropriate forum to decide on issues like pricing and contractual corruption. Instead, it reiterated it demand that a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) be formed to probe allegations of corruption in the deal.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that the Thursday judgement, in fact, “paved the way for a comprehensive criminal investigation into the Rafale scam”.
He said that the SC bench clearly says in the judgement that the “court has ‘limited jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution’ and court is not the appropriate forum to decide the issues of (i) contractual corruption, (ii) malicious bungling in prices, (iii) altered specifications, (iv) crony capitalism and (v) violation of the mandatory provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedure.”
“Paras 12, 15 and 33 of Judgment dated 14th December, 2018 and paras 19, 67 and 73 of today’s review judgment vindicates our stand,” said Surjewala in a press conference. He added that the SC has also said that only “independent agencies or the police/CBI are equipped to undertake” such a probe, as is mentioned in “paras 73 and 86” of the Thursday’s judgement.
The Congress leader said that now that the SC has mentioned clearly that its judgement “would not stand in the way of an investigating agency” from investigating the deal (para 86).
Hitting out at the BJP, another Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said, “As expected and as usual, BJP Government and its Ministers are misleading the Nation on the impact of the judgment. The Supreme Court judgment is not a ‘clean chit’ but paves the way for ‘full investigation’. The layers of corruption in the Rafale scam can be answered only through a fact-finding impartial JPC investigation.”
“The nine relevant questions in the Rafale scam remain unanswered till date,” a press release by the party noted before listing the following:
1. Why did BJP government supersede HAL in awarding a Rs 30,000 crore ‘offset contract’ to benefit cronies?
2. Why was the ‘offset contract’ of Rs 30,000 crore given to a 12-day old company with zero experience?
3. Why purchase a Rs 526 crore Rafale for a price of Rs 1670 crore and thereby cause a loss of Rs 41,205 crore?
4. Why was ‘National Security’ compromised by reducing the number of aircrafts from 126 to 36?
5. Why was Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) violated and Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) bypassed by the Prime Minister at the time of announcing the purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts on April 10, 2015?
6. Why did BJP government sacrifice ‘Transfer of Technology to India’ for manufacture of Rafale aircrafts?
7. Why eight year long delay in delivery of Rafale(s), when it falls under classification of ‘emergency purchase’ of aircrafts?
8. Why did PM Modi increase the ‘benchmark price’ of Rafale jets from 5.2 billion euros to 8.2 billion euros?
9. Why did BJP government waive off the condition of seeking ‘Sovereign Guarantee’ despite the objections of law ministry and Defence Acquisition Wing?
In effect, the SC order on Thursday puts the ball in the government’s court, and that has led to a peculiar situation. Now, if at all there is a probe on the Rafale deal, the government will have to initiate proceedings against itself.
In this regard, the Congress asked, “Will the so-called ‘independent investigating agencies’, including the CBI now proceed to investigate the Rafale scam? Will the BJP government show the courage to grant sanction to prosecute and investigate the Rafale scam under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act?”