Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Shourie on Friday urged the Central Bureau of Investigation to register a first information report in the Rafale fighter jet deal. This came a day after the Supreme Court dismissed the review pleas challenging its December 2018 ruling that upheld the purchase of 36 Rafale jets by the government..
The pleas were filed by Bhushan, Shourie, and former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, among others, after The Hindu, in February, published multiple revelations about the deal that were reportedly based on secret government documents.
“The Supreme Court in yesterday’s [Thursday] judgement has paved the way for further investigation in the monumental corruption scandal in the Rafale matter which has a vital bearing for our national security,” Sinha, Bhushan, and Shourie said in a joint statement. “The court has negatived the false perception created by the BJP and the government that in view of its earlier judgement, no investigation by CBI was possible into the comprehensive complaint made by us on 04.10.2018 to the CBI.”
The petitioners released the statement following a press conference in New Delhi. At the briefing, Bhushan said it was binding on the CBI to look into their complaint despite the Supreme Court judgement, according to PTI.
“The CBI has to seek the permission of the government for probing the case and it has three months to do so,” Bhushan said, adding that if the agency did not go ahead with the inquiry it would have to cite reasons for its decision.
The senior lawyer referred to sections of the judgement of Justice KM Joseph, who was part of the three-judge bench that delivered the verdict on Thursday.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Joseph said the demand for an FIR 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.
Joseph said that the CBI was expected to take actions “completely independent” of the government, adding that “highest quality” of professionalism and neutrality was required from it, PTI reported.
Hours after the Supreme Court’s verdict, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi called for a Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the Rafale fighter jet deal. He attached an image of Joseph’s observations and claimed it had “opened a huge door into investigation of the Rafale scam”.
On the same day, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress and Gandhi should apologise to the country for alleging corruption in the jet deal and for calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a liar.
Former Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa praised the verdict and said it had cleared the accusations against the central government in the controversial defence deal.
The Rafale fighter jet deal had become a major political issue during the Lok Sabha election campaign earlier this year. Gandhi had accused 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.
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