Former Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and advocate Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the Rafale jet deal between India and France, Bar and Bench reported.
Bhushan and Shourie had met CBI Director Alok Verma on October 4 and sought an inquiry into the agreement. Late on Tuesday night, Verma was sent on leave by the government, pending an investigation.
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore. The Congress has accused the Narendra Modi government of signing an overpriced deal. It has also alleged that the government helped a defence firm owned by businessman Anil Ambani, which has no experience in the sector, land a mega contract under the deal.
In the petition to the top court, Bhushan, Shourie and Sinha said that under the deal signed by the United Progressive Alliance government, 126 aircraft were to be purchased. They claimed that the new contract negotiated by the Narendra Modi-led government in 2015 increased the price per aircraft from about Rs 700 crore to Rs 1,600 crore.
The plea said that high-ranking officials in the Indian government entered into a memorandum of understanding with the French government without consulting the Indian Air Force about their qualitative requirements for the aircraft. The petition said this action was in violation of all mandatory procedures. “Consequently, just 36 aircraft were arbitrarily purchased, with no Make in India and no transfer of technology,” the plea added.
Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie said that there was no scope for offset contracts under the old deal. However, the deal was changed in order to give Ambani an offset contract worth thousands of crores of rupees. “The French government as well as the Dassault Aviation company were told that this contract of 36 aircraft will be only given to Dassault Aviation, if they gave the major part of the offset contracts to Ambani,” the petitioners alleged.
The petitioners contended that Ambani’s company has neither the eligibility nor the credibility to be an offset partner, therefore, the money to be received by Reliance is in the nature of “commissions”.
Bhushan, Shourie and Sinha further claimed that the CBI is under “enormous pressure” not to undertake any investigation into the matter, and not even a first information report had been filed. They said that given these circumstances, they had appealed to the Supreme Court for a CBI inquiry.
On August 8, Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie released a joint statement alleging that the Rafale deal “imperils national security”. The three said the contradictory statements of union ministers, the handing of the offset contract to Reliance Defence and the “gross misuse of friendly media to purvey falsehood” had convinced them that “there is a major scandal here, gross misuse of office, and monumental criminal misconduct”.
On September 23, Bhushan demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the agreement. He dubbed the deal “the largest defence scam in India”.