The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a public interest litigation seeking fresh investigation into the Rafale fighter jets procurement after a French portal last year claimed that Dassault Aviation paid an Indian middleman millions of euros to influence the deal, Live Law reported.
The plea filed by Manohar Lal Sharma, an advocate, sought the court’s directions to quash the agreement to procure 36 fighter jets from the French aircraft maker.
A bench comprising Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat said that Sharma had made no case for the Supreme Court to interfere.
“One day will come when each and every person will feel helpless...no body came forward to question corruption,” Sharma told the judges while trying to persuade them to consider his plea.
The bench, however, told him that the court has passed an order. Sharma then made a request to withdraw his petition. The judges accepted his request and dismissed the petition as withdrawn.
Last year, French online journal Mediapart published a three-part report on the deal. The reports also claimed that the Enforcement Directorate in India and the French anti-corruption agency did not take action despite spotting the irregularities.
In his plea, Sharma said that the agreement to procure the fighter jets from Dassault Aviation was an “outcome of corruption” and was “in violation of Articles 13 [laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights], 21 [protection of life and personal liberty] and 253 [legislation for giving effect to international agreements] of the Constitution.
“Due to political pressure, prosecution upon AFA’s [Agence Française Anticorruption] report has been suspended/stayed,” the petition stated. “It is a serious offence under [Official] Secrets Act, 1923, injuries financial and defence to the country. It has violated Articles 21 and 13 of the Constitution of India.”
Sharma also sought an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the Rafale deal after registration of a first information report against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among others. The petition listed Sushen Gupta, the middleman named by Mediapart in its report, and his company Defsys Solutions, as respondents in the matter.
In November 2019, the Supreme Court had dismissed review petitions challenging its December 2018 judgement that had rejected the need for a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the Rafale deal. The pleas were filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan and former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, among others.
The Mediapart reports
The three-part report published on Mediapart claimed that Dassault Aviation and French defence electronics firm Thales paid millions of euros to Sushen Guptato influence the Rafale deal. The French website claimed that Enforcement Directorate documents revealed that Dassault Aviation and Thales paid Gupta in secret commissions to offshore accounts and shell companies, using inflated invoices for software consulting.
These payments were on top of a contract with Dassault for making replica models of Rafale jets that have never been seen, worth 1 million euros, which was revealed in the first of the website’s series of reports. The second part reported on how a French prosecutor overruled a deputy in deciding to not pursue an anti-corruption investigation into the Rafale deal, citing the “the interests of France”.