The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a petition seeking a review of its verdict dismissing the need of an inquiry into India’s deal with France to buy Rafale fighter jets, PTI reported. Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said he would set up a bench to hear the matter.
Gogoi said he would consider lawyer Prashant Bhushan’s request for an urgent hearing, according to The Leaflet.
On Monday, Bhushan, along with former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, had moved the top court to seek perjury proceedings against officials of the central government for allegedly submitting “false or misleading” data about the Rafale jet deal. They had also filed a review petition last month challenging the court’s earlier judgement.
On December 14, the court had dismissed a clutch of public interest litigations, including a petition submitted by Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan, seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the deal. The court had said there was “no occasion to doubt the Centre’s decision-making process in the deal”.
The plea to initiate perjury proceedings cast aspersions about the data submitted to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover. “The information that has come into the public domain after the judgement of court was delivered prima facie shows that government ‘misled’ the court on various counts and the basis of the judgement of the court is more than one untruth submitted by the government and suppression of pertinent information,” the plea said. The petitioners demanded that the officials who “misled” the court should be identified and penalised.
The plea also referred to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s audit of the deal, which was submitted in Parliament only last week. “There was no CAG report at the time,” the plea said. “The government misled the court into relying on non-existent fact/report as basis of its observation on pricing in the judgement. Instead of admitting that it misled the court, by way of an application for ‘correction’, government imputes that Justices...have misinterpreted tenses in English grammar in like manner individually and severally.”
In their review petition, the petitioners had alleged that the judgement “relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover”.
The petitioners had also said that apart from relying upon incorrect facts presented by the Centre, the court did not consider a letter that retired bureaucrats had written to the Comptroller and Auditor General protesting that there had been no CAG report on the deal even though three years had passed since it was signed. The petitioners said that contrary to government claims, the CAG report on the deal did not exist at that time, and had not been placed before the Public Accounts Committee. In relying on a “non-existent fact” to pass its verdict, the court made a “substantial error”, they argued.