Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday called for a Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the Rafale fighter jet deal, hours after the Supreme Court dismissed a review petition of its December 2018 judgment upholding the purchase of 36 Rafale jets by the government.
“Justice Joseph of the Supreme Court has opened a huge door into investigation of the Rafale scam,” he tweeted, attaching a photo of the judgement. “An investigation must now begin in full earnest.”
The top court dismissed review petitions against its Rafale verdict filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, and advocate Prashant Bhushan, saying they lacked merit. The petitioners had alleged that the government concealed crucial facts in the case and misled the top court into giving a favourable verdict in December 2018. In May this year, after hearing the arguments, the Supreme Court had reserved its judgement.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph said the demand for registration of a first information report against the government officials on charges of perjury was “not fair”. Joseph wrote a separate judgement, and said he agreed with the main verdict written by Justice Kaul subject to certain aspects on which he gave his own reasons, PTI reported.
Supreme Court verdict is not a ‘clean chit’, says Congress
Congress said the top court judgement has “paved way for a criminal probe in the Rafale deal”, India Today reported. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the ruling party has the “habit of celebrating without going into the details” of verdict.
“The verdict has opened a window for a detailed enquiry into the matter, it has said that December 14, 2018, or today’s verdict is not an obstacle in way of the CBI from taking action in the case in future,” Surjewala said. “The CBI or any other investigative can conduct an enquiry into the matter mentioned in Para 73 and 86 of the judgment”.
“Till the verdict of an impartial JPC investigation is placed in public domain, Rafale deal will continue to be questioned for the stink of corruption, collusion and crony capitalism, hurting national interests, causing loss to public exchequer, murdering transparency, making a mockery of make-in-India and blocking technology transfer,” Surjewala added.
In a tweet, the party said the judgement was not a “clean chit” and that BJP was misleading the public.
The Rafale fighter jet deal had become a major political issue during the Lok Sabha election campaign earlier this year. Rahul Gandhi had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of treason and corruption multiple times, and alleged that he had acted as a middleman for industrialist Anil Ambani in the deal. Gandhi consistently used the phrase “chowkidar chor hai [the watchman is a thief]” during his campaign to accuse Modi of corruption.
Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said Gandhi should apologise to the country for alleging corruption in the Rafale defence deal after the verdict. Several other BJP leaders also criticised him for his “slanderous campaign” against the party.